Why Patient Portal Utilization is Important

Patient Portal Technology

Technology continues to inform and shape many aspects of healthcare. Digital devices and services are having a far-reaching impact on the efficiency and effectiveness in which healthcare is delivered. Patient portals in particular are becoming a major player in the evolution toward virtualizing the overall patient experience.

Providers and health plans that work with patients with all types of coverage, including Medicare and Medicaid understand that greater patient-provider communication helps increase patient engagement, leading to more effective care.

How Patient Portals Work

Patient portals allow individuals to go online in a secure environment and view medical documents, forms, provider notes, medication lists, etc. at their convenience. Questions can be thought of and forms can be completed prior to a visit, making the actual office visit more meaningful. Additionally, for patients with chronic conditions patient portals offer an enhanced level of communication and expediency with providers, leading to stricter adherence to medication and follow-up appointments helping to reduce readmissions related to their conditions.

What Patient Portals Provide

Recent studies by the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that engaged patients tend to have the knowledge, skills and willingness to better manage their health and take action on provider recommendations and those using patient portals have a high rate of patient satisfaction and take an active role in their medical decision-making.

It seems like a no-brainer, which is perhaps why according to a 2015 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, 87% of eligible healthcare professionals offered patients electronic access to their personal health information.

Patient Portal Challenges

However, utilization remains low on the patient side, around 15-30% according to the same GAO report. The challenges around patient portals include security, lack of knowledge about how to use them, and a lack of robustness within the portal.  Healthcare data breaches compromised more than 16 million healthcare records last year. Providing a secure environment for online portal use is a top priority. So is utilizing them beyond just a recordkeeping tool and instead creating a space for true patient engagement.

Patient portal technology advancements continue at a rapid pace, meaning their value to health plans, providers and patients is evident. The move to a mobile-friendly experience should increase use as well as the development of a single portal that provides access to all of a patient’s healthcare information from different providers and facilities in one place. It’s all on the horizon.

Source:  Health Management Technology. How today’s technology is shaping healthcare’s future. June 2017. PP10-11.

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