Not only are patient portals a necessity for Stage 2 Meaningful Use compliance, an increasing number of patients are expecting web-based access to their health information.
With the Stage 2 rules for the Medicare/Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs recently announced, it is obvious that a patient portal will be vital to many practices. Patient engagement technology will make it easier for physicians to meet the new objectives proposed by CMS including providing patients online access to health information and secure messaging between patient and provider. Stage 1 may have required a patient portal to be in place but Stage 2 will be enforcing the use not only by physicians but also their patients.
So just how important is the patient portal? Some of the main concerns include the volume of messages that will be received as well as the ease of interpretation in regards to the information provided through the patient portal. A system with routing capabilities for inquiries to designated staff will help with the messages physicians receive. This way the non-physician staff can handle simple inquiries saving more complicated questions for the physician. A patient portal that offers a refill request will also help with the volume of messages received saving your office time and ultimately money.
PATIENTS WANT PATIENT PORTAL ACCESS!
In a recent Accenture survey of 1,100 U.S. patients, 90% prefer web-based access to health information and education, and 72 percent want to book, change or cancel physician appointments online.
Among the survey’s other findings:
- 48 percent want their doctors to manage their medical records, while 44 percent want to do it themselves.
- 33 percent did not know whether services such as bill pay, electronic reminders and lab results were available to them online.
- 88 percent want to receive email reminders for preventative or follow-up care and 76 percent want the option of email consultations with doctors.
- 73 percent prefer to use a mobile device to request prescription refills.
Apathy has been blamed for the low adoption rate for personal health records. In another study published in January in the Journal of American Medical Informatics Association, only 26 percent of hypertension patients studied regularly used personal health records (PHRs). PHR access failed to affect outcomes and older patients were less likely to use it.
But Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirements will call on providers to boost patient engagement in their own healthcare and healthcare data. Among the suggestions for increasing use of PHRs: help patients to become more tech-savvy, address privacy concerns and show the benefits, especially to patients’ wallets.
The eClinicalWorks EHR platform features a Patient Portal that is integrated into the EHR. Other EHR systems use independent or 3rd party Patient Portals.
Small to mid-size practices shouldn’t fear the implementation of a patient portal, especially if it is included with the EHR software. eClinicalWorks recently released a new design for its patient portal making navigation that much easier for patients and providers. With the eClinicalWorks patient portal, patients can not only send secure messages to their doctor’s office and refill prescriptions, they can also schedule appointments, conduct web consults, enter medical history, view current and past account statements, pay bills online, obtain patient education materials, and check lab results 24/7. Downloading your personal health record is also a quick and easy function that eClinicalWorks has incorporated into the patient portal. Once downloaded, this record allows patients to share their complete medical history with another doctor if they move.
As physicians take advantage of the eClinicalWorks patient portal they will see a dramatic increase in the organization of their office with improvement in workflow and patient communication. While cost and resources may play a role in patient portal adoption, the time has never been better to confront these barriers due to the Stage 2 final rules. Patient portals can prove to be a big asset to any size practice with the endless opportunities it provides to practices and patients. Adopting patient portal technology shouldn’t be feared but rather seen as access to the patient. After all, it is a portal!