My fascination with the benefits of patient portals continues to grow as the technology continues to grow in popularity.
Given their resurgence in popularity over the course of the last three or four years, and with the latest push for patient engagement through stage 2, clearly they have a very strong future in the practice of healthcare for the foreseeable future; probably until a game-changing technology moves us beyond the era of EHRs.
Until quite recently, patient portals have been viewed as a novel concept, and, overwhelmingly, practice leaders and physicians kept coming back to how they were going to get patients to actually use the communication systems, and, likewise, what benefit would they deliver the practice if the patients used them.
It’s safe to say we’re now living in a different time than even just a few years ago. People are more mobile, landlines have been cut and actually using a phone to make a call is essentially going to the way of the tube television.
We’re in an always on society where access to information, regardless of the subject, must be had. As you’re well aware, portals don’t necessarily come automatically with your EHR; they’re not bolted on, in other words. They cost money in addition to what you pay for your practice management system and electronic health record. In some cases, they’re actually quite expensive, or have been known to be in a traditional sense.
And, if the case could be made to invest in the technology (practice portals that is), the most obvious question often went unanswered: How can a practice bill for the time spent by its physicians when administering it and when responding to communications from patients, for example.
I digress. This is all water under the bridge. Everyone knows this stuff. It’s been overworked and underpaid.
The feds now require portals to play a huge part in health IT through meaningful use. Insurance companies are now jumping on board and allowing physicians and practices to bill for the time they spend administering data collected through portals, and patients have become so engaged in their mobile lives that it’s only a short matter of time before portals are utilized as heavily as online banking and ATMs, let’s say.
When I began thinking about this post, I thought of grandiose ways in which I could depict the usability of the portal and speak to its ever-increasing importance to the world of heath IT, but I just don’t think I can sum up their benefits better than simply listing them, as they speak for themselves.
As we know, patient portals can increase patient engagement by providing secure access to medical information online. Additionally, they allow physicians to:
- Send and receive messages to and from doctor’s office
- Communicate with patients through secure messages
- Post lab and imaging results
- Send reminder notices to patients
- Post patient consent forms
- Make billing information available
- Provide patient education materials
With patient portals, patients can:
- View and enter medical history
- View and update allergy and medication lists
- Send messages to their doctor’s office
- Complete registration forms
- Update demographic information
- Request appointments and prescription refills
- Obtain patient education materials
- View account statements and pay medical bills
Not a bad day’s work for a fascinating bit of technology that’s changing the face of healthcare IT.