Calling a doctor’s office for an appointment around lunch time usually results in the above conversation. What exactly did anyone gain from this conversation? From the patient’s point of view-absolutely nothing. I doubt if the medical practice gained anything as well. Why medical practices still use an answering service is beyond me. A simple voicemail option would accomplish the same result. But that too involves returning phone calls and playing phone tag with the patient at times. There is a better alternative available and it is called a patient portal.
What is a patient portal? A patient portal is a secure HIPAA compliant communication channel between patient and the practice via the internet, and serves as a third form of communication in addition to face to face meetings and phone calls. It is an interactive medium that enables the provider and the patient to communicate diagnoses, test result s and other confidential information in a secure manner that ensures patient privacy. Patient portals can be standalone, part of the practice website or incorporated in the electronic health records (EHR). Patients access their portal via a secure HTTPS internet connection ; in the same way as they access their bank accounts online.
Just like we can obtain different forms, reports, make payments etc., through our bank portal, a patient portal can also be used for various purposes including:
- Providing patient registration forms
- Completing patient health and financial histories
- Appointment scheduling
- Communicating lab/test results
- Sending reminders to patients for preventive or follow-up care
- Making online bill payments
- Authorizing prescription renewals
- Sending appointment reminnders for preventive and other recommended care
- Enabling referrals to specialists
- Conducting confidential provider-patient communication at each other’s convenience
The availability of the above features translates directly in to benefits for patients and providers. Benefits include:
- Improved patient engagement in their own medical care and enhanced relationships with patients
- Improved quality of patient care and increased patient satisfaction
- Secure sharing of confidential patient data
- Improved connectivity with referring and consulting physicians
- Reduced operational costs and improved operational efficiency from time saved not playing phone tag with patients and the ability to reallocate staff resources to other more important nursing related activities
- Increased practice revenue
- Meeting federal HIPAA compliance requirements for Stage 2 ‘meaningful use’ of an EHR
According to the American Medical Association:
“Patients who communicate with doctors and access medical records through online portals are more engaged with their overall health care. And that connection could lead them to visit their physicians more often”
With benefits to both your practice and your patients, isn’t it time you considered a patient portal for your practice?