After successfully introducing a pilot program this past fall in the Obstetrics & Gynecology Department, Yale University Health Services is aiming to expand its interactive Web site, which allows electronic communication between Yale Health Plan members and staff. The Web-based program can now be used in the Pediatrics Department, and if things go as planned, the system will be in place in the other departments by this fall.

Yale Health Online will allow health plan members to make or cancel appointments, ask for medical information, refill prescriptions, and obtain test results all via the Internet. The system will be encrypted to protect information.

UHS Director Paul Genecin said one of the goals of the program is to enable members to communicate with the medical staff at their own convenience. Instead of calling a secretary and leaving a message for the doctor, the patient can contact the staff directly via e-mail, eliminating the “middleman.” Genecin said the online system will be “fantastic for reducing phone tag between patients and staff.”

The online service will not replace the telephone completely. Genecin said that even after it is fully put into action, people will still have the option of taking care of their medical needs over the phone. But Genecin said health plan members may find the online system more useful for routine procedures, such as refilling a prescription or scheduling an appointment. This will benefit patients who are severely sick and need to contact a doctor immediately by clearing up the incredibly busy phone lines.

Although some students said they would still prefer to do things the traditional way, many of them acknowledged the usefulness and efficiency of the new system.

“For me, it would probably be fine either way, but I could see how it would be more convenient for some people,” Katie Goettsche ’05 said.

For many other health plan members, though, the system is a dream come true. No more calling only during office hours; no more waiting endlessly for test results; no more time-consuming trips to UHS to take care of prescription refills or other minor problems.

“I think this new system will make things a lot easier,” Aravinda Ananda ’05 said. “I wouldn’t use [the online system] for anything extremely important, but I would definitely use it to schedule an appointment.”

Yale is not the only university to offer this Web-based health system. According to the UHS Web site, the health services at Duke, Dartmouth, and the University of Colorado have instituted similar pilot programs, which have, for the most part, been successful.

Genecin said the extent to which the system will be employed will depend on the success of the pilot program. He said that at the very least, Yale Health Online will be used for appointments and prescription refills, but added he would like to see the system be used for more. Eventually, UHS may create a personal secure Web page for each health plan member that would list all of the patient’s information, including immunization records. Members would then have the option to update any new information via the Web, instead of having to do it over the phone or at the UHS office.

Genecin said Yale Health Online will be ideal for people studying or working abroad. These members can electronically request services, such as dose adjustments, instead of constantly making long-distance phone calls. Also, if a person comes in for an appointment the day before going off on a long trip, lab results can be obtained electronically from abroad.

“I feel that [the Web-based system] presents enormous opportunities for us advancing as a society,” Jacob Rubin ’02 said.