Empowering the Patient

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Friday, 25 May 2012 18:11

Every day millions of simple medical questions and requests come through the front office of a medical practice, tying up many hours that could be used for other duties. Wouldn’t it be great to have those particular requests come through a secure online application instead?

Successful patient communication with the medical practice is absolutely essential to the doctor-patient relationship.  There is growing demand for more online communication between doctors and patients.  In the era of EMRs (electronic medical records) more practices are offering online patient portals. Wikipedia defines Patient Portals as healthcare-related online applications that allow patients to interact and communicate with their healthcare providers, such as physicians and hospitals.

Implementing a patient portal within your EMR system can help with compliance for several of the core and menu objectives of Meaningful Use in the HITECH Act.  A patient portal is great for the capture of demographics, up-to-date problems, active medications and allergies list. These are all things the patient themselves can update. The portal can also let the medical practice securely remind patients of appointments electronically, supply them with electronic copies of their medical records and lab results, and provide a location for educational resources about their health.

The tool can only be as good as people that use it.  There cannot be implementation without education of the patients and healthcare providers on how to use the portal.   Make clear statements on the timeframe for handling patient inquires and the process for relaying test results. Create easy to follow instructional flyers to present to patients in the office and market the portal with colorful mailings. Patients need to know that this technology exists for the office. Some offices even offer a computers in the waiting area and assistance for patients to register.

Patient portals have many more pros than cons. Many of the cons can be alleviated by making sure the office has a good workflow practice before starting the project, proper training at implementation and policy creation to insure the safety of patient data coming and going through the portal.  The pros are endless, many of which have been mentioned above. Here are a few more to think about; completing new patient forms, review billing information, and requesting prescription refills.

Overall, the time and effort put forth in creating a patient portal can be very prosperous in terms of increasing patient satisfaction, decreasing cost and workload and complying with meaningful use.

~ Kristen Price