January 18, 2022

EMMC hospital patients can now register online

Eastern Maine Medical Center began accepting online pre-registration for surgery and other services Monday.

The new service is designed to save patients time at registration windows or from endless games of phone-tag with administrators as they try to pre-register by telephone.

Spokeswoman Elizabeth Sutherland said the benefits of submitting information early are clear. For instance, a pregnant woman can register weeks or months before she actually goes to the hospital to deliver, which can simplify admission when labor is near.

The Internet system can be used for services provided in Bangor at EMMC, the Webber Building, and the EMH Healthcare Mall. The registration form can be found by visiting www.emmc.org. It asks for all the usual contact, insurance and personal information. The form must be sent at least one full-business day ahead of the appointment.

It also allows patients to register on weekends or off-hours from home, said Fran Wren, Eastern Maine Healthcare’s director of access management services. He oversees EMMC’s registration services. Some patients don’t like having early evening calls for preregistration, he said.

A patient may opt to have phone or e-mail confirmation of the processing of the form. A standard e-mail acknowledging its initial receipt will be sent to everyone using the Internet although it contains no personal information, he said.

The system uses sophisticated coding, or encryption, to ensure that sensitive personal information sent over the Internet isn’t seen by prying eyes.

“I feel much safer using encryption technology over the Internet than calling up [a business] and using a credit card,” said Steven Widmann, EMMC’s Web development manager.

Widmann explained that a credit card number could be intercepted when given over a portable phone or when the clerk on the other end writes the number down. But encryption technology is so tight that it’s been said it would take 300 years of full-time work to break a message completely without a special key, he said.

That’s why the U.S. Government wants to be given the keys to this and other software codes in order to track terrorists and others, Widmann said.

The new procedure will not only save time, it will likely save money in the registration process, Widmann said.

He could not say how much would be saved, or how many people are expected to use the service. But with Maine people so spread out in the countryside, it will likely be used more and more as people become familiar with it, he said.

Widmann said that EMMC’s Web site, for instance, has gone from about 8,000 hits a month three years ago to 25,000 today. The online jobs section is among the more frequently accessed, he said.

Online registration is still relatively uncommon nationwide, Widmann said.

He explained that he became interested in it while at a conference last December in New York where the idea was being discussed. After the conference he began to work on developing a Web site form with help from an outside consultant, and he visited a Philadelphia hospital where it is being used.

Widmann said the EMMC site has been well tested and he expects it won’t develop any problems as more and more patients turn to the Internet to register.

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