December 7, 2023Read More
Going for regular breast cancer screenings can be a challenge at the best of times. Doing it in the middle of a pandemic creates added stress and barriers.
Ruth*, 47, was determined to take every precaution possible when she found a pea-sized lump in her left breast in 2015. After a series of scans revealed nothing abnormal, the Oakville, ON resident reported to her hospital’s radiology clinic every six months for a mammogram and ultrasound to help doctors monitor the situation.
Four years and multiple scans later, her doctor sent her for a precautionary biopsy that showed nothing had changed. “Their exact words were, ‘Your breasts are totally normal.’ I know this because my husband told the oncologist, ‘Her breasts aren’t normal — they’re fantastic,’” she says with a laugh. “But I digress.
“I kind of got it in my head that I’m fine. There’s something going on but it’s not anything of concern. I have a clean bill of health at that point.”
Health care, Interrupted
Six months later, in December 2020, Ruth returned for her regular mammogram and ultrasound (with good results) before the slow spread of COVID-19 began to play havoc with her health. In order to get a timely appointment, she went to a different hospital for her next mammogram, an unpleasant experience that left her waiting for hours in a crowded waiting room. Six months later, she decided to skip her scans altogether because her previous results were clear and the pandemic appeared to present the greater risk.
When she finally made it back to her regular clinic last December, things had changed. Once her mammogram results came in, she was sent for an urgent biopsy that revealed she had breast cancer.
As she grappled with a difficult diagnosis, Ruth began to vigorously research her condition, determined not to slip another inch into the cracks of the healthcare system. “That was a part of me saying, ‘Oh God, I turned my back on my health — now I can’t do that. Now I want to over-educate myself so I can be informed on my journey and my choices moving forward.’ And so I did.”
For Ruth, this meant scouring the internet for trusted sources on breast cancer, learning how to read her medical records and signing up for PocketHealth. This way, she could get instant access to her imaging records and easily share that information with others from a mobile device or computer.
“I was sitting in the hospital and I saw the PocketHealth poster and I’m like, ‘You know what? If this is the imaging sharing platform that’s associated with my health network, I’m going to see what it’s about.’”
Ruth takes the information from PocketHealth, along with any other records she has access to and combines them into a spreadsheet to simplify her healthcare journey. This way, she has her medical history at her fingertips, instead of having to go through every single report from the last seven years.
Ruth relied on PocketHealth’s Report Reader to make sense of the complicated terminology doctors used in reports when writing about her evolving condition. That, and the speed with which her medical records became available, helped her feel like she was finally back in the driver’s seat.
“I love the fact that I get my reports almost before my doctors do,” she says. “I really appreciate that because then you’re not harassing the doctor to say, ‘Did you get my report or do you have my results?’ You have the results.
“For me, a lot of it is about control. I want to feel like I’m in control of my health.”
Owning Your Health and Taking Back Your Power
Now, Ruth wants to help others feel the same way. While almost anyone can benefit from having their medical records in the palm of their hand, Ruth says this ability is particularly important for older people, especially snowbirds who spend long periods of time out of the country and away from the relative safety of its healthcare system. It’s also a great way to remind yourself not to miss a vital scan or checkup, something Ruth still regrets.
“Even if it takes 3 or 4 hours out of your day to get scanned now, that’s still better than the time that you may need to invest later to do chemotherapy and radiation treatments.”
And with the technology that puts patients back in charge of their health only getting better with time, Ruth hopes others take advantage of the opportunity to see the benefits for themselves.
“The sooner you dip your toe into the world of democratized health records, the sooner you’re going to be on a trajectory of having control over your records and therefore your health.”
PocketHealth is putting hundreds of thousands of patients just like Ruth back in charge of their healthcare journey by giving them easy online access to all their medical imaging and making it a breeze to share this information with doctors and care providers anytime, anywhere.
Access your own imaging and records by visiting this link.