In recent years, the adoption of digital record storage and communication has had a significant impact on healthcare. By and large, that impact has been overwhelmingly positive for both patients and providers. Many providers and hospitals who demonstrate meaningful use (MU) of certified electronic health records (EHRs) now may qualify for incentive payments through Medicare’s EHR Incentive Program. Patient portals, which allow patients to access important health information and communicate with doctors online, are one component of EHR that improve outcomes while helping providers meet MU standards.
What Are Patient Portals?
A patient portal is a secure website where patients can access their personal health information. This information includes:
- Visit history
- Discharge summaries
- Lab results
- Immunization records
- Allergy Information
Many portals are configured to allow additional functions such as:
- Requesting refills for prescriptions
- Messaging providers via secure email
- Updating information
- Making payments
- Checking benefits
- Completing forms
- Scheduling appointments
Providers that have established secure patient portals have experienced numerous benefits, both for their teams as well as their patients.
With access to an online portal, patients are able to reach out to their doctors through their computer, smartphone, or tablet, making communication both simple and secure. Through secure email messaging, patients are able to contact their doctors with questions, concerns, requests, and so forth, all without having to wait for calls to be routed and picked up.
Providers also benefit here since emails are much easier to manage than phone calls. This streamlines communication and makes healthcare providers more responsive to their patients.
Many of the functions of a patient portal can be automated. For instance, appointment reminders or test results can be automatically sent to the patient through the portal, drastically cutting down phone time in the office.
Patients using web portals also tend to be more direct with their questions, especially when providers specify what types of questions are appropriate for email. This makes it much easier to meet their needs in a timely and precise manner.
Improved Patient Outcomes
The ultimate result of more consistent and efficient communication between patients and providers is improved patient outcomes. Patients have their questions answered more reliably, physicians are more aware of what individual patients need, and the care they provide improves overall.
Of course, in order to be truly beneficial, this technology must meet EHR privacy standards set forth by HIPAA as well as meaningful use criteria established by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. An experienced, board-certified health law attorney—such as us at Larry “Max” Maxwell—can assist your practice with concerns related to privacy law compliance and any other legal concerns you may have.