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University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Launches Patient Internet Portal

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Launches Patient Internet Portal

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) has launched an Internet-based program for diabetes patients that allows them to communicate more effectively with their doctors from any location and to better manage their health care by using an Internet portal. The Web-based initiative, known as 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.

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 indices 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,” says  Dr. Gary Fischer, 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,” he notes.

The UPMC HealthTrak evolved from a program launched in 2003 by an 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.

“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,” says Dr. Linda Siminerio, the 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.

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