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Linda Siminerio, Ph.D.

Linda Siminerio, Ph.D.
Biography

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Launches Patient Internet Portal

Patients With Diabetes Have Access To Their Medical Information From Anywhere In The World

PITTSBURGH, January 19, 2005 — The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has developed a tool for patients that enables them to communicate more effectively with their doctors from anywhere in the world and better manage their health care by using an Internet portal.

The web-based initiative, called UPMC HealthTrak, is being offered in its first phase to people with diabetes to gauge its usefulness in managing chronic diseases. This phase is funded in part by a federal appropriation to the UPMC/ University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute, which was announced by Congressman John Murtha in February 2004.

UPMC HealthTrak has been developed to advance the efforts of physicians and their patients to improve diabetes care and outcomes, enhance understanding of individual patients’ care plans and goals, increase satisfaction with overall management for both physician and patient, and improve quality of care through better communication.

Through a secure Internet portal, patients can view portions of their UPMC medical record, including lab results, medications, immunizations and current health problems. The portal includes online tools to help patients track their progress on various health measures such as weight, blood glucose levels and stress. Each participant in the pilot project also receives a pedometer so that he or she can check the number of steps walked each day.

“UPMC HealthTrak is a secure communication tool through which patients can communicate with their physicians in a more timely and effective fashion,” said Gary Fischer, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and one of the physicians participating in the pilot project. “It allows physicians to communicate to patients appropriate medical information, in context, and increase the medical knowledge of patients through evidence-based medical information.”

“While the portal is not a replacement for personal contact, it is a vital tool to improve communications between patient and doctor. Patients can access the portal from home and very easily schedule appointments and view test results when it is convenient for them,” Dr. Fischer said.

Patients can communicate with their primary care physicians as well as their office medical staff, schedule routine appointments online, receive alerts about appointments and other health reminders and submit requests for prescription refills and referrals. Patients also are alerted when it is time for their check-ups and routine tests.

“This interactive Web site empowers patients and helps them to manage their diabetes. It facilitates a greater exchange of information between patients and physicians, allowing for a collaborative approach to disease management,” said Linda Siminerio, Ph.D., executive director of the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute and assistant professor of medicine, division of endocrinology and metabolism, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “Diabetes is at an epidemic level in the United States. Improving awareness, educating people about self-care, and providing excellent primary care for people with diabetes can have a real impact by reducing the incidence and severity of the disease.”

UPMC HealthTrak evolved from a program launched in 2003 in one UPMC physician group within the University of Pittsburgh Physicians Division of General Internal Medicine, in which more than 200 patients volunteered to enroll regardless of their health status.

Plans call for three other UPMC physician groups to offer UPMC HealthTrak to patients with diabetes within the next several months. In the long term, it is hoped that it can be offered to all UPMC patients.

Patient files are accessed directly via the UPMC HealthTrak Web site, which is accessible only to patients who have registered for an account. All information exists on secure servers. The Web site has state-of-the-art security and complies with all HIPAA regulations along with offering the convenience of single one time sign-on, which requires individuals to remember only one username and password.

“The UPMC physician-patient portal is unique in our industry because of its underlying vision to enable real collaboration, fundamental health care transactions, between physician and patient using information technology,” said Clifford Goldsmith, M.D., B.Sc., Microsoft Healthcare and Life Sciences. “As a leading health care provider, UPMC understands something that many have missed-that it is essential for the technology solution to include both a patient portal and its counterpart, the physician portal, in order for true collaboration to occur around health issues via the Internet.”

Interconnecting Clinicians – the eRecord Initiative

UPMC has committed approximately $500 million to develop and deploy information technology initiatives. The UPMC electronic medical records initiative, called eRecord, of which HealthTrak is a part, encompasses a broad range of electronic clinical applications that give doctors, nurses and other caregivers the ability to instantly access important patient information. The goal of the initiative is to improve the quality of patient care, reduce medical errors and duplication of services and provide more cost-effective care.

Industry Recognition

In September 2004, UPMC was ranked first in the United States in the health care industry, and fifth among all industries, in the use of information technology by InformationWeek 500, a prestigious annual listing of the most innovative users of information technology. UPMC is one of the few medical centers listed for more than six straight years on the American Hospitals Association “The Most 100 Wired” hospitals annual list. It also was ranked by Modern Healthcare magazine’s Hospital Systems Survey as the 4th largest secular not-for-profit health care system in the country.

About the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute

The University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute was formally established in 1999 to coordinate various clinical aspects of diabetes care and to support efforts to improve diabetes care for UPMC patients. Its mission is to provide and promote high quality, comprehensive care to those affected by diabetes in western Pennsylvania. The Institute unites experts in the areas of endocrinology, education, epidemiology, patient and physician education, clinical care, health economics, behavioral science and rural medicine. It also serves as both the umbrella organization under which many aspects of diabetes education, treatment and research are coordinated at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh and is the leader of numerous community and statewide initiatives. The Institute’s efforts focus on prevention, detection through screenings, education, research and state-of-the art treatments for all people with diabetes and for those at risk throughout the community.

About the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is the largest integrated health care delivery system in Pennsylvania and one of the leading nonprofit medical centers in the country. With more than 39,000 employees, it is the largest employer in western Pennsylvania. More than 4,000 physicians have privileges at UPMC hospitals including about 1,950 employed physicians. UPMC spans the full spectrum of health care delivery with its network of 19 tertiary, specialty and community hospitals and 400 outpatient sites and doctors’ offices.

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