MCG and the MCG Health System will test the efficacy of a software system that gives patients direct access to information about their medical condition, including their medical record and prescription drugs, and enables private e-mail correspondence with physicians.
The study is funded by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program Quality Allies: Improving Care by Empowering Patients.
MCG Health System is pursuing additional pilot studies in other patient groups, such as type 1 diabetes, independent of the new grant.
The goal is to make the software program developed by Kansas City, Mo.-based Cerner Corp., an information portal for all patients.
"We evaluated where our best opportunity was for really testing the goals of collaborative self-management support in our existing programs," Patricia Sodomka, center director and senior vice president for patient and family-centered care for MCG Health, Inc. "That is when the multiple sclerosis patients surfaced as an ideal opportunity for this grant proposal."
The Augusta MS Center, a collaborative venture of the MCG Neuroscience Center and Walton Rehabilitation Hospital in Augusta and an affiliated center of the National MS Society, follows about 1,000 patients from east-central Georgia and South Carolina's Piedmont region.
"We already have a lot of experience with the involvement of these patients and families in quality improvement initiatives," Mrs. Sodomka said. As an example, the MS Patient Advisory Council was established five years ago to help make the MCG Health System's facilities and treatment approach more patient- and family-friendly.
"This grant gives us the opportunity to pilot My HealthLink in the MS patient population and see how useful it is to patients by getting their feedback," Mrs. Sodomka said. Two patients who are members of the grant's Learning Community Team will aid in project development. Patient advisors from several patient advisory groups at MCG Medical Center helped develop the project proposal and will help critique it. The MS Patient Advisory Council will provide qualitative feedback on project efficacy at three-month intervals. The Stanford Patient Education Research Center's Self Efficacy for Managing Chronic Disease 6-Item Scale also will be used every three months to compare the progress of patients who use My HealthLink to those who don't.
"It's a building block for a total clinical information system," Mrs. Sodomka said of My HealthLink. "I think people are coming to the conclusion that the idea that we should be totally dependent as individuals on clinicians or the health care system doesn't really work. It's expensive and it may not produce the best quality because we have internal capabilities to take care of ourselves. That is the patient-centered part of this. It's about empowerment of individuals for their own health and well-being. We are grateful for the support of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in helping us explore this potential."
MCG was among 60 institutions invited to apply and the 20 selected for support from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation program.