Six Ways to Improve Care Using Patient Portals

I continue to be a fan of quality reporting from publications such as Physicians Practice, and I’ve cited their reports in several of my blog posts in the past. Today is no different. As regular reader here may know, I’ve spent a good bit of time on the subject of patient engagement, specifically how physicians and practice leaders can engage patients to improve their care outcomes and their health.

That brings me to a recent piece by Rosemarie Nelson titled, “Patient Portal: 6 Ways to Improve Patient Care.

In the piece, Nelson discusses “meaningful use incentives, increased profitability or improved quality of care.” In exacting terms, she makes a call for patient portals and how it can get “patients engaged in their own care and satisfy just about any goal.”

Though I’m somewhat of a skeptic at the party for patient portals (I don’t think that in their current status they’ll actually lead the patient engagement charge), she offers six pretty interesting and solid tips for helping practices lighten their administrative loads.

Thanks, Rosemarie. It’s hard to argue these points:

Self-registration: “Invite and encourage patients to self-register on the portal. It will save your front-desk staff time, reduce costs, and patient data will be more complete and accurate. When patients call to schedule appointments use that time to introduce them to your patient portal, and explain that advance online registration will save them time on the day of their visit, because their paperwork will already be filled out. Advance registration on the portal provides your practice with three core requirements to meet meaningful use too.”

Collect patient data. “A tightly integrated or interfaced patient portal and EHR will deliver data back to the patient from their encounter. Push the patient’s medication list, medication allergies, problem list, and diagnostic test results from the EHR into the portal and patients almost naturally become more engaged in their healthcare.”

Report patient data. “There has always been a mystery surrounding that paper medical chart for patients. By delivering key components of their health information to them automatically, you can satisfy their curiosity and engage them in their own healthcare. As your nurse discharges the patient at the end of the office visit, use that discharge instruction time as an opportunity to introduce patients to the kind of information they will be able to find on the portal.”

Provide clinical summaries. “The integration/interface from the portal to the EHR allows for automation of data exchange after the patient visit. Clinical documentation is completed and made available to the patient without any action from your staff. In addition to further engaging patients in their own care, you’ll have achieved two more core requirements of meaningful use.”

Secure messaging. “Once you’ve got your patients using the portal to access information, you can begin to communicate with them via the secure online messaging function. Communicating online instead of on the telephone will streamline your practice operations significantly, even if all of your patients aren’t using the portal. Your staff can use the portal to deliver automatic reminders to patients regarding preventive care and/or follow-up care. No more manual logs or tickler files and no more mail merges to process. Developing HIPAA-compliant processes and standard messages frees up your staff to provide direct patient care.”

Provide patient education materials. “Secure messaging can also be used to direct each patient to educational information that is specific to their own individual needs and conditions. Your practice will achieve greater percentages of patients meeting quality measures and your patients will feel as well cared for as their pets. Three more requirements for meaningful use can be checked off, too.”

Well said, well said.