Whatever your motivation — meaningful use incentives, increased profitability, or improved quality of care — implementing a patient portal in your practice can get your patients engaged in their own care and satisfy just about any goal. Here are six different tasks that a portal can accomplish, which will significantly lighten your administrative burden:
1. Self-registration. Invite and encourage patients to self-register on the portal. It will save your front-desk staff time, reduce costs, and patient data will be more complete and accurate.
When patients call to schedule appointments use that time to introduce them to your patient portal, and explain that advance online registration will save them time on the day of their visit, because their paperwork will already be filled out. Advance registration on the portal provides your practice with three core requirements to meet meaningful use too.
2. Collect patient data. A tightly integrated or interfaced patient portal and EHR will deliver data back to the patient from their encounter. Push the patient's medication list, medication allergies, problem list, and diagnostic test results from the EHR into the portal and patients almost naturally become more engaged in their healthcare.
3. Report patient data. There has always been a mystery surrounding that paper medical chart for patients. By delivering key components of their health information to them automatically, you can satisfy their curiosity and engage them in their own healthcare. As your nurse discharges the patient at the end of the office visit, use that discharge instruction time as an opportunity to introduce patients to the kind of information they will be able to find on the portal.
4. Provide clinical summaries. The integration/interface from the portal to the EHR allows for automation of data exchange after the patient visit. Clinical documentation is completed and made available to the patient without any action from your staff. In addition to further engaging patients in their own care, you'll have achieved two more core requirements of meaningful use.
5. Secure messaging. Once you've got your patients using the portal to access information, you can begin to communicate with them via the secure online messaging function.
Communicating online instead of on the telephone will streamline your practice operations significantly, even if all of your patients aren't using the portal. Your staff can use the portal to deliver automatic reminders to patients regarding preventive care and/or follow-up care. No more manual logs or tickler files and no more mail merges to process. Developing HIPAA-compliant processes and standard messages frees up your staff to provide direct patient care.
6. Provide patient education materials. Secure messaging can also be used to direct each patient to educational information that is specific to their own individual needs and conditions. Your practice will achieve greater percentages of patients meeting quality measures and your patients will feel as well cared for as their pets! Three more requirements for meaningful use can be checked off too.
*Click here to download a convenient chart to keep track of your patient portal's functionality.
Rosemarie Nelson is a principal with the MGMA healthcare consulting group. She conducts educational seminars and provides keynote speeches on a variety of healthcare-technology and operational topics. Drawing upon her diverse experience, Nelson provides practical solutions to help medical groups succeed in their practices. She may be reached at www.mgma.com/consulting/nelson.