A Crucial Element of Your EHR And How it Increases Your Revenue
Providing a portal is no longer just a nice option to offer your patients. Future pay-for-performance based plans, which are headed our way, will require them.
What’s more, not implementing an effective patient may limit your EHR benefits, Medicare reimbursement and increase your costs. There are rumors that medical practices will also have higher malpractice premiums in the future.
A Patient Portal is required in order to meet the Core Measures for Meaningful Use Stage 2. It helps to meet several measures because it persuades patients to record their health information online while permitting providers to exchange clinical information electronically.
Patient Portal Benefits
While many physicians have implemented portals under protest, kicking and screaming, the thing is, once training and implementation has occurred, the office is actually more productive. Patients and physicians are happier.
There are many benefits to implementing patient portals, such as:
- Providing new insurance information
- Processing payments
- Coordinating appointment scheduling without taking out staff time
- Updating patient demographics
- Exchanging messages
- Reviewing treatment plans or discharge instructions
- Reminding patients about appointments (and what to bring)
- Documenting patient conditions
- Obtaining medical and social histories
- Reminding patients to get their vaccinations, mammograms and other screening tests as they come due
Many physicians are surprised by the amount of time the office saves while providing better patient care.
How to Get Your Patients to Adopt Portal Use
Just because you make a portal available, it doesn’t ensure that patients will use it. Yet, at least 5% of your patients must participate in the portal.
Involve the entire staff in patient portal promotion. Steps they can take include:
- Disseminating brochures on portal use
- Display signs at the desk about how to access portals
- Introduction of the portal during patient visits
- Have an understanding of all the portal features so that they can be explained to the patients
- Remind patients at the exit desk about the benefits of portal usage
- Log patients into the portal – make enrollment available to all patients
- Offer an iPad or kiosk at the waiting room with help to patients in registration and use of the portal
- Offer an instructional video for patients on your website
Positive use of portals involves a myriad of patients- seniors, chronically ill and caregivers.
Bare in mind that patients are much more likely to engage in portal use if physicians and health professionals recommend and encourage portal involvement as well as a functionality that supports activation by patients.
Integration and Cost with Various Portals
There are essentially 3 categories of portal integration with electronic health records:
- Integration with the vendor’s EHR such as eCinicalWorks, Epic, and nextGen
- Interface with third-party portals (e.g. Intuit Health) with Allscripts and GE
- Relationship between the portal vendor and EHR vendor (which may create more work by re-entering information)
Costs may be included with the EHR fee or it may be an additional monthly fee, depending on the vendor and the type of portal integration. In addition, costs may be added for installation, annual maintenance, upfront software and transaction fee per patient.
Patient Portal Strategy
Consider the needs of your practice by offering engaging features and how the patient portal achieves meaningful use requirements.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the goals for the portal in terms of the practice and patient?
- What features do I want?
- Should they be offered at once or phased in?
- What will be the marketing and training for the portal?
- How can I utilize feedback to expand the program?
Ask your local REC (Federal regional extension center) for advise as you plan and launch your patient portal.
The portal expedites information exchange with both clinical and administrative issues.
Ideally, your desired list of portal services interface with your electronic record.
Capabilities differ tremendously between various patient portals. Some offer one or many of the following patient tools:
- Support of secure messaging
- Exchange of specific information on patient care
- Post specific forms on conditions for patients to fill out
- Enable patient input for family and social history
- Enable history of present illnesses
- Allow patient scheduling
- Enable prescription refills by matching the request with the medication list
- Access of records and laboratory results
Those that accept histories by patients are invaluable in creating new electronic health records. Those that allow scheduling, lab result access and drug refills save time for both patients and office staff- offering more effective use of time for staff and happier, compliant patients.
Regrettably, many practices and health facilities haven’t carefully examined the patient portal strategy of their EHR vendor and the implications of the patient portal to their EHR strategy and gotten caught, big-time!
Hopefully, that’s not you!
Analyze the specifics of the companion patient portal to the EHR options. Study the features and costs of such portals when incorporating portals into your EHR strategy.
By Barbara Hales, M.D.
What has been your experience. Share them in the comment box below.