Let’s review some key findings of a study on patient portal use.
The study was conducted by Virginia-based researchers who tracked 8 practices over a 30-month period. These practices were smaller facilities where cost and resources can make implementation a challenge. However, once they adopted an EHR and began engaging patients, per meaningful use requirements, the portal usage improved close to 1% per month, ranging from 22.1% to 27.9% in overall increases.
Ten months into the study, Electronic Laboratory Results (ELR) were added to the health records, making lab results visible to the patient through the portal. Five of the eight practices that fully utilized the lab feature saw higher increases (in portal use) overall than those facilities that did not. Additionally, by sharing normal lab results via the patient portal, clinics can save time and effort associated with call backs.
So, what are the considerations for starting to use patient portal? Here are some things to consider:
- Learn about patient portal and Meaningful Use.
- Ensure that you get a federally ONC certified EHR. Make sure that the EHR is “complete” rather than “modular” certified. A complete EHR has 100% of federally required functionality while modular EHR has only partial functionality. Also, ensure that the patient portal is included in the price and not a separate add-on cost.
- Before getting patients involved in using the portal, make sure that your staff is completely comfortable with using the EHR for patient registration, billing and clinical charting. Getting your staff completely proficient may take a few months.
- Review your privacy and security policies with IT – you can use this as a chance to review HIPAA compliance.
- Get ready to share information via a patient portal. Have internal discussions about policies and procedures. For example, who is going to collect patient emails, answer patient questions etc.?
- Patient portal implementation is only a start of engaging patients electronically. A modern and innovative EHR can help you further streamline your processes while reducing workload i.e. meaningful use is just a start to automation. Start thinking about how to use the new technology.
The conclusion of the study is important. Researchers determined that the increase of portal usage by patients had a direct correlation to the decisions made at the practice level, underscoring the importance of systems and workflows.
It is best to use a team approach in notifying patients about the portal, rather than relying solely on the clinician. Front desk staff, nurses, and clinicians can all be engaged to communicate with the patient, explaining features and benefits of portal use, and reminding the patient to use it.
Include the use of Electronic Laboratory Results in the health records. This will not only benefit the patient but can also improve the workflow and save time for the clinicians. It can also help generate after-care summaries for patients – complying with meaningful use requirements.
With patient portal implementation, healthcare providers and public health departments can improve patient-provider communication, engage patients, and monitor and maintain care between visits to meet the overall goal of improved patient outcomes.
Patient Electronic Access – #7 of 17 Meaningful Use Core Measures
Objective: Provide patients the ability to view online, download and transmit their health information within four business days of the information being available to the eligible provider.
According to a survey conducted by National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), and Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) there has been a reduced workforce and a discontinuation of several programs and services.
Over twenty years ago, I started my career in the human services software industry, focusing on public and mental health. Back then, the software was 100% proprietary and was mainly used for billing and reporting systems. They ran software on expensive RISC based UNIX systems and the servers alone, to run the software, were well over $50,000. Old legacy software took large IT departments to run, and if your organization did not have a highly skilled IT department, you most likely struggled on a daily basis with your six figure investment.
The implementation model back then was also a “Do It Yourself DIY tool-kit” implementation model. The vendor would come in and train your IT department on how to setup the hundreds of maintenance tables in the software. Then your IT department would spend the next several years implementing the software for your organization. Clinicians would spend many hours with IT people in very frustrating meetings to design various clinical templates e.g. for family planning, communicable diseases, child health, etc.
Step-up to promote healthy choices and improve public health awareness.
In a previous blog I answered the question “What is Public Health?” In a nut shell, public health departments provide quality clinical services, provide safe environments, educate their communities and increase awareness. This is a huge undertaking for anyone. Fortunately, the community and other public agencies are responding, albeit slowly, and things are starting to take shape.
In the community, the convenience store giant, 7-eleven, is changing their tune with the help of P90X health and fitness guru Tony Horton, who has developed a line of food products with healthy choices; offering health and convenience all-in-one. Even McDonalds, Sheetz and other fast food chains are adding healthy to convenience.
The World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Local Health Departments (LHDs) are now faced with a crisis that may or may not happen in the US, but preparedness is the best prevention method.