Columbia University Medical Center

Columbia Stays Ahead Of The Curve On Patient Access To Information

New York, NY, October 14, 1999 – These days people do almost everything online — bank, shop, attend college. So why not log in and discover when you’re due for a cholesterol test, or find out the results of your Pap smear? Columbia University Center for Advanced Technology (CAT) researchers now are testing the Patient Clinical Information System (PatCIS), which will give patients immediate, interactive access to their own medical records via the World Wide Web.

How will PatCIS change the traditional doctor-patient relationship? Will patients use PatCIS to do their own doctoring? Will they bombard physicians with questions about what they’ve learned by using PatCIS? “We’re already in an era where patients gather all kinds of information from the Web and present it to their health care providers. We hope patients use PatCIS to become better informed, follow trends in their conditions, and ultimately improve the doctor-patient relationship through more efficient and educated communications,” says James J. Cimino, M.D., associate professor of medical informatics at Columbia and lead investigator on the project.

“Systems like PatCIS represent the wave of the future,” according to Dr. Cimino. “You can find out when you’re due for a test, and once you have it, get the results, or, learn about your risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, or having a heart attack. You can monitor trends in existing conditions, and look at the big picture that only your complete medical record provides.”

Seymour Kaplan, 68, is a patient participating in PatCIS testing. As a kidney transplant recipient, the retired chemist volunteered to use PatCIS so he could track his medical record and be more involved in the management of his condition.

Says Kaplan, “With PatCIS I can have a blood test at the hospital at 10 in the morning and go home and check the results on my computer that same afternoon. Getting information this quickly is important, because, as a transplant patient, even a small change in my condition could be life-threatening.”

PatCIS also allows patients to enter and update their own medical information. Kaplan inputs his blood sugar readings on a regular basis. “My nephrologist reviews the information I put in and calls me when something concerns him,” says the Spring Valley, N.Y. resident. “When I have questions, I send my doctor an email. I don’t have to spend time traveling to his office or trying to reach him on the phone to get the information I need. ”

PatCIS also introduces another revolutionary concept. Information buttons will allow people to point and click on links relating to data in their medical records. According to Kaplan, this is one of the technology’s best features. “I’m linked to web sites where I can get information about my condition and treatment options.”

Increased availability of medical information is of national concern. Bills pending in Congress include provisions to give people more and faster access to their medical records. “There’s no question that people want to be better informed when it comes to their health,” says Dr. Cimino, “and if in the next 20 years technology improves at the rate it has in the past 20 years, widespread use of interactive online medical records will be a given.”

PatCIS development is funded through 2001 by a contract from the National Library of Medicine through the National Information Infrastructure. It is now in the testing phase and not yet available to the public.

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The Columbia University Center for Advanced Technology (CAT) specializes in bringing cutting-edge information science to industry for product development and enhancement. Supported by a grant from the New York State Science and Technology Foundation, Columbia’s CAT is one of fourteen Centers for Advanced Technology housed at universities throughout the state. The CAT develops information-based technologies to serve real-world clients while expanding the outer limits of scientific research, and helps the New York State economy to thrive.

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