"Leading Health IT information since 2005"
Search in HealthTechnologyReview.com
Breaking Down the Barriers of Patient Portal Adoption
Despite the upgraded status as a core measure for Meaningful Use Stage 2, patient portal adoption still remains slow to catch on. According to proposed CMS guidelines, doctors must provide their patients with the ability to view their health information online in a timely fashion (4 business days) to engage patients with their care.
In reality, only 5% of providers have a patient portal installed with active users and only 7% of those providers’ patients have used the portal more than once. However, studies show that of patients who are given portal access, 49% use it more than once.
Barriers such as inadequate product development and promotion work as an impediment to the adoption rate of patient portals. According to John Deutsch, founder of Medical Web Experts, portals that accompany EMRs are still in the early stages of product maturity, as already-stressed EMR vendors have struggled to meet the very recent demand for patient portal solutions. Overwhelmed by other development tasks, vendors find themselves with not enough time to meet the ever-increasing demand.
The second reason for the low adoption rate is that patient portals have a variety of usability challenges, including poorly planned user interfaces (EMR companies have never been known for excelling in user interface design) and inherent issues for user registration that adds barriers for patients to begin using the portal.
“EMR companies have put in a fraction of the time compared to what we’ve put into our solution: the Medical Web Experts Enterprise Patient Portal,” says Deutsch. Lack of integration with the health organization's website, and/or lack of use of waiting room kiosks make it difficult to educate a patient as to what's behind the login. “If the practice doesn’t have a website that is used regularly and doesn’t have adequate patient portal promotion, it’s one more barrier,” he claims.
For successful implementation and use, the practice needs all elements – the website, the portal and the EMR – as one solution to properly leverage the patient portal. No matter what initial barriers providers may face with patient portal adoption, an auspicious end result is guaranteed. The most obvious benefit of portal implementation is meeting the Stage 2 Meaningful Use requirement. Deutsch points out doctors are essentially being forced one way or another to implement patient portal technology through the ARRA HITECH Act.
“To qualify for Stage 2 Meaningful Use, they must provide patients their records electronically,” he explains. “If they want to receive reimbursement, they have to implement.” The patient portal is the final piece of the EMR puzzle, giving providers the opportunity to fully maximize their EMR’s return on investment. The real proven benefits of a successfully implemented patient portal result from information gathered electronically. Obtaining information in the EMR beforehand streamlines intake forms and reduces double data entry for subjective patient history, saving practices valuable time and resources. Patient portals also give practices the opportunity to generate new revenue streams through the use of tele-medicine consultations, online store integration, patient marketing initiatives and advertising revenue from healthcare enterprises, such as pharmaceutical companies.
Learn more about patient portals and Meaningful Use Stage 2.