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Ask the Doc: What is the Patient Portal and What Does it Mean to Me?

Image of Chief nursing information officer in-processing trainees into MHS GENESIS. Click to open a larger version of the image. Army Maj. Cynthia Anderson, chief nursing information officer for General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital, oversees the in-processing of trainees into MHS GENESIS, April 24, 2021 (Chad Ashe, General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital).

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Dear Doc:

I have a few friends in the military medical community and I keep hearing them talking about this "MHS GENESIS Patient Portal" thing and how much easier it's going to make their job. I know a little bit about what it is but, not being in the health care field, what I would really like to know is what it means to me as a patient.

Do you know anyone that could provide a little more insight into what the Patient Portal is all about?

Thanks Doc!

-Patient Portal Perplexed

Illustration of a male face with the words "Ask the Doc"

Dear PPP: I realize there are a lot of changes going on out there with all the military medical treatment facilities transitioning to the Defense Health Agency. Things like MHS GENESIS and the Patient Portal are essentially the electronic side of that transition and just one more thing that we hope will make your life easier as beneficiary.

I contacted Air Force Lt. Col. John DaLomba, the health informatics support team lead and solution owner for the Patient Portal at DHA headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia, and here's what he had to say about it:


Let me start with MHS GENESIS. That will help the Patient Portal make more sense.

MHS GENESIS is the new electronic health record for the Military Health System and the Department of Defense. The rollout started in 2017 in the Pacific Northwest, and it's been working its way, more or less, west to east across the country since then.

MHS GENESIS will replace the existing outpatient and inpatient electronic health record systems - what we call "legacy" systems - so that, eventually, all outpatient and inpatient documentation will take place within MHS GENESIS.

You are probably familiar with TRICARE Online. Your local military medical treatment facility will eventually transition from TRICARE Online to the MHS GENESIS Patient Portal, if it hasn't already.

So...what does this mean to you, the beneficiary?

The secure communication with your primary care team, appointment scheduling and ability to review information about your appointments and medical records will still be there, but there are a variety of improvements that will come along with the new system.

The secure messaging piece of the Patient Portal allows for what we call "asynchronous communication" with your providers. Beneficiaries can upload attachments of up to 25 MB, which is about 30 seconds of high-quality video and most pictures. In addition, patients are not limited to communicating just with their primary care team. They can communicate with specialty clinics as well.

You can log in to the MHS GENESIS Patient Portal and look up, print out or download clinical notes from a visit you've had with health care providers within the MHS. You can share that information with a civilian provider if needed. You can also view lab results and radiology reports. There's a health library that's available, too, so you can look up conditions and medications.

Once MHS GENESIS comes online at your MTF, you should also be able to make appointments online shortly thereafter.

Additionally, we've recently made changes to COVID-19 test results. They're available immediately and readily accessible in the Patient Portal. We also have the option to complete an e-visit if a patient suspects they have COVID-19. Once complete, a secure message is sent to their primary care manager so that team or that person can take appropriate action.

Another nice thing about this is that the DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs are using similar systems. They're essentially speaking the same language when it comes to electronic health records. If you're an active duty service member, or in the guard or reserve, this is going to help facilitate the transition from active duty status to veteran status. We spend a lot of time working with our VA colleagues. The interfaces of both patient portals should look and function about the same. Once we have this product up at all of our basic training facilities, an individua's medical documentation will happen on the same electronic health record system from in-processing to separation or retirement and beyond.

And don't worry about losing TRICARE Online immediately. It's not going anywhere for a while. You and your provider will still be able to go into TRICARE Online and retrieve any information that's there. Once we're completely transitioned to MHS GENESIS, then we'll start to phase out the old system.

We hope to have MHS GENESIS, and along with it the Patient Portal, "live" at all MTFs by the end of 2023 or beginning of 2024.


PPP, There you have it. It sounds to me like MHS GENESIS and the Patient Portal are designed to revolve around you, the patient. Keep an eye and an ear out for when it will be arriving at your local MTF if it's not there yet. I, for one, would encourage you to use it to its fullest capacity if you can.

Additionally, as we head into 2022, I would like to send out a special thanks to Lt. Col. DaLomba and all of the other experts that truly make Ask the Doc work. Without them, I quite literally couldn't do it.

And to our readers, as always...take care out there!

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