Report: Patient Portals Surging, Hospitals Still Faxing, and Cloud EHRs with Integrated Billing Key to Practice Success

Michael Lake
Michael Lake

One of the greatest sources of information that depicts the changes in health IT trends across the industry landscape is from Michael Lake, healthcare technology strategist. Through his monthly reports on the state of health technology, published by his company Circle Square, he provides succinct highlights from throughout the last month. Possibly, what’s best about these reports is that they cover such a diverse segment of the ecosphere.

For example, in one of his most recent reports, the focus was the EHR vendor sphere, cloud EHRs and their importance to independent practices, the use of faxes in hospitals, vendor news and transactions and practice portal insight, among other news.

According to his most recent report, cloud-based EHRs with integrated billing are quickly becoming a key to a practice’s future success as an independent practice. In his report, he cites Black Book as ranking solutions that seamlessly integrate electronic health records (EHR), revenue cycle management (RCM) and practice management (PM). Kareo tops on the list, per KLAS.

However, most practices feel that billing and collections systems and processes need upgrading (87%) and more than 40 percent (42%) are considering an upgrade to RCM software in in the next year . Most practices (71%) are considering a combo of new software and outsourcing services for improvement.

According to Lake, “Of those who are replacing EHRs, almost all (89%) want a seamless single-source vendor that offers it all, and almost all business managers (97%) confirm that a seamless solution ensures long term practice independence.

“A functional and seamlessly integrated solution that includes EMR workflow, billing and collections can help these independent practices remain so.”

The report finds that RCM software and services is now a $12 billion market and a growing trend, Lake adds.

Lake also observes that EHRs are linked to improved care for patients with diabetes post EHR implementation. According to the Kaiser report, diabetic patients visited the ER 29 fewer times (per 1,000 patients) a 5.5 percent decline; therefore, 13 fewer diabetics were hospitalized (per 1,000 patients), a 5.2% decline.

Additionally, EHR-driven automated telephone calls resulted in improved control for hypertension, and hypertension control was increased to 32.5 percent of patients getting the calls versus only 23.7 percent who didn’t.

Also, patients who also had cardiovascular or kidney disease were 8.4 percent more likely to get control with this approach than others.

And, reporting on a HIMSS Analytics study, Lake pointed out that hospitals are still relying on faxes to exchange information. Hospitals used a variety of tools for information exchange: portal access (44%), DIRECT exchange (41%), organization-specific (35%) and query-based (32%).  

“Most hospitals that share data with others are not part of an HIO use faxing (64%). Among those who are faxing, most (63%) report scanning faxes into electronic form once received,” the report cites.

Budgeting and staffing issues were reported as major roadblocks to effective exchange. 

“A study undertaken by HIMSS Analytics on behalf of ASG Software, a document management company, argues that there will be a continual role for secure document management including increased efficiency even in environments with EHRs,” said Lake. “Faxing and scanning activities for lab results, consent forms, physician notes and others will demand modern solutions.”

Finally, among several other gems from the report, patient portals are going to experience a huge surge in the next few years in light of their growing importance in helping providers meet Stage 2 meaningful use goals, according to KLAS.

Niche solutions providing a patient portal only are losing ground to those provided directly by EMR vendors; i.e., MEDSEEK and Intuit are losing customers.

Athenahealth is the top-performing portal assessed. Other vendors with preliminary data included Greenway, NextGen and Vitera. Only 11 percent of practices have multiple vendors supplying the an EHR and a patient portal.

Increasing interoperabilty with multiple EMRs is top requested feature. “Requested advanced functions include more bill pay options, secure messaging, usage analytics/reporting, self-scheduling,” said Lake.

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