Dream Team:
Patients win when their providers connect on their care

Whether their arena features a soccer pitch, a basketball court or an examination table, having every member of a team on the same page is important in sports – and especially critical in medicine. Even the best teams in the world will stumble when communication breaks down.

A patient’s care team includes all of the providers involved in the patient’s medical care. Each plays an important role in coordinating and delivering care that supports the patient’s immediate and ongoing needs. Typically, the care team begins with the primary care physician or internist who manages the patient’s health through preventive care as well as the diagnosis and management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes or hypertension. The care team expands when the patient’s primary care physician refers the patient to a specialist. Medical experts agree that patients experience better health outcomes when their providers work within the same health system. The reason? Better communication and information.

Karen Brown, MD, medical director, Primary Care, Northeast Medical Group (NEMG) agreed that ability to share detailed information among the patient’s providers is an important element of continuity of care.

“If someone needs a cardiologist, and I refer them to a specialist who shares my electronic medical record because they also work within the Yale New Haven Health (YNHHS) Epic medical record, it is much easier for them to see all of the patient information,” she said. “We’re talking about everything I’ve collected over years, not just what I would fax over on a single piece of paper to a specialist who doesn’t share the electronic record.”

Dr. Brown explained that the ability to share patient information automatically creates a dialogue between specialist and primary care provider, and that keeps everyone on the same page.

“If the cardiologist prescribes a new medication to target blood pressure, and I see the patient next, I can increase the medication because I know exactly what the cardiologist was thinking,” she said. “It’s that seamless communication that happens in real-time that allows us to make decisions without having to schedule a phone call or wait for an email response. It’s incredibly efficient.”

Maintaining continuity of care also reduces the potential for errors. Dr. Brown said everyone involved in the treatment has access to the most recent changes in care because the medical record is instantly updated with each patient visit.

“If I were working with a cardiologist that didn’t share the electronic record, I likely wouldn’t increase the patient’s blood pressure medication,” she added. “I’d be worried changes might get confused between me, the patient, the pharmacist, and the specialist and risk a medication error.”

While the free flow of information between physicians is critical, Dr. Brown maintains that patient access to information about their care is equally important. She said studies show that patients experience better outcomes when they can view their medical information through a secure, online portal like MyChart, which is available to NEMG patients.

“MyChart is only going to be 100 percent accurate when all of the providers on the care team have access to the electronic medical record,” she said. “Continuity of care, having all of the providers sharing the electronic record, means the patient sees the whole picture when they log in. They automatically get reminders for required vaccines and appointments so they can take an active role in their care, which leads to improved outcomes. If one or more members of the care team is not affiliated with NEMG or another YNHHS facility and doesn’t have access to the electronic record, then the patient is only getting part of the story.”

It’s the one-stop shopping approach that has led many of Dr. Brown’s patients to request any referrals be made to other NEMG physicians.

“My patients care about two things: my ability to communicate efficiently with the specialists and that all of their information is kept in one place they have access to,” she said. “Oftentimes when I tell someone they’ll need a referral to a specialist, they’ll stop me and say they want to go with someone who shares the medical record.”

Do you have MyChart?

Information is power – especially when it comes to your health care. A web-based tool, MyChart gives Northeast Medical Group patients secure, online, 24/7 access to portions of your electronic medical record. You can also schedule appointments with your doctor, request or renew prescriptions, see your billing and insurance information and send and receive secure, confidential electronic messages with your doctor’s office. Ask your Northeast Medical Group healthcare provider for a MyChart brochure or your MyChart Activation Code. You may also request one online at mychart.ynhhs.org by clicking on “New User.”