How E-Prescribing and Patient Portals Benefit Practices

October 25, 2011

Changes in electronic prescribing and the development of patient portals are affecting the way providers connect with patients.

Changes in electronic prescribing and the development of patient portals are affecting and improving the way providers connect with patients. 

What are the benefits of these technologies, and how can your practice move toward adopting them?

Derek Kosiorek, independent consultant, MGMA Health Care Consulting Group, answered these questions while giving attendees of the MGMA11 conference an overview of emerging healthcare technologies during his Tuesday morning session, “Patient Interaction and Information Security in an Electronic Age.”

Thanks to CMS’ e-prescribing incentive program, a growing number of physician practices are moving away from paper-based prescriptions. Pharmacies are shifting, too. According to Kosiorek, 91 percent of community pharmacies are electronically prescribing.

When it comes to making this transition, practices need to take many things into consideration, Kosiorek said. For example, what is the practice’s typical work flow? By looking at its day-to-day work flow, a practice can figure out how to incorporate e-prescribing into its routine.

“The whole reason we’re putting [e-prescribing in place] is to make work flow more efficient, more effective,” Kosiorek said.

Practices should also be prepared to ask their prospective e-prescribing vendors certain questions. For example, will the practice need to upgrade its existing technology to accommodate an e-prescribing system?

Like e-prescribing, patient portals are also gaining steam among practices.

Kosiorek pointed to recent data from Pew Internet & American Life Project survey that reveals 80 percent of adults who use the Internet have looked online for health information. And 34 percent of Internet users have read someone else’s commentary or experience about health or medical issues.

“We were looking for a primary care physician a few years ago,” said Kosiorek, “and one of the things we were looking for is whether they were using a portal or not.”

A patient portal - which can be a standalone system, part of a provider’s website, or a module built into an EHR - gives patients 24-hour online access to their medical information.

The benefits, said Kosiorek, are numerous.

For starters, using patient portals shortens office visits, as forms are filled out in advance. They also can improve a practice’s market share: Many patients enjoy the benefit of being able to send messages directly to their doctors without playing phone tag, among other things.

“As more and more providers adopt portal functionality, more and more practices who don’t use portals are going to look out of touch with current technology,” said Kosiorek, noting that today’s consumers wouldn’t go to a bank without an ATM system.

To pick a portal, practices need to check to make sure that the patient interface is easy to use.

“You can have a website set up but you’re only looking at the administrative side of it,” said Kosiorek. “It’s always important to take a look at your website from your patient’s point of view.”