The healthcare industry has been one of the biggest benefactors of the electronic medical records movement. An online Patient Portal software can be defined as online health-care related web application which allow patients to communicate with their healthcare providers and physicians over the internet.
As such these new patient centric web portals include a complete list of patient services, all of which are conveniently accessible online 24/7 to better accommodate patients for the majority of administrative tasks. It’s efficient and convenient.
The Importance and Use of These Portals
This web application can be divided into two segments on the basis of how they exist and the functions they are intended to be used for. For instance, some exist as stand-alone sites which sell their services to medical and healthcare providers directly. Other portal applications exist as integrated sites, i.e. sites which are integrated into existing healthcare provider websites or systems, to make the overall patient experience a seamless one.
The services however are similar in their capabilities, features and usage and as such have many things in common. At their core they allow patients to interact with their healthcare providers as well as have access to their electronic medical information online.
Main Features & Benefits
One of the main features that makes an online system a patient web portal lies in a its ability to store as well as avail individual patient medical information online in a secure manner. Also, almost all of these portals are capable of fostering some form of interaction between patients and health care providers. An online portal features many benefits for providers and patients by increasing productivity and efficiency.
Many of these web portals also make it possible for patients to:
- Pay medical bills online
- Access medical records
- Review lab results
- Schedule medical appointments
- And so much more
The portals also act as crucial tools for allowing physicians to meet the “meaningful use” requirements set by regulators and governments before physicians can get federal incentive checks. Some of them, like Kaiser Permanente‘s patient login website, also enable patients to register as well as complete forms online which in turn streamlines hospital and clinic visits. Among the most popular companies who use these portal technologies are Emory Healthcare and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC)
The Purpose of Physician Portals
Physician portals are online health-care related applications which transform large volumes of raw data into meaningful info which is then delivered to physicians, administrators and care teams online. Using the information which is available in their system, care teams are in a better position to remind patients about upcoming appointments.
They help physicians and administrators to understand medical utilization patterns better.
theses online web platforms also make it possible to measure service quality as well as guide strategic and tactical decision. With their web portals, physicians can print patient lists anywhere, perform common activities via the home page, view medical staff events and news, utilize quick links to on-call directories, acquire common clinical application training aids, access medical libraries, utilize search engines to get information faster etc.
These physician web portals are made up of a number of relational database systems, data marts and single-sign-on enabled web applications. A mixture of administrative and clinical data collected from numerous data sources is collected in a data warehouse staging environment for processing. Processed data is stored in data marts and delivered to web applications in text and graphical formats. For the sake of efficiency as well as high quality healthcare to patients who enroll in a provider’s panel, providers need timely access to info practice patterns.
A referring physician portal makes this possible by providing data in categories such as:
- Primary care visits
- ER visits
- Hospital visits
- Panel population demographics
- Drug prescriptions
- Drug usage
- Expense management
Without these, physicians wouldn’t be able to manage their practices in a proper manner.
The Role Provider Portals
Provider portals are online healthcare providers main point of entry, which offer healthcare providers access to all the tools they require to; improve population health, relay performance incentives better as well as drive better outcome for members. They have a lot of benefits. Some of the main benefits include expediting reimbursement, easing the process of viewing eligibility, lab results, claims and gaps present in care services. The portals also align timely & relevant communication between members and providers.
Main Features & Benefits
All them share some features in regards to eligibility, claims, provider network information, user account management, notifications, workflow & secure messages. In regards to eligibility, most of these portals will have benefits summary, primary care physician, effective dates, patient roster and member profile information, all in one site.
In regards to claims most portals will have claims status and claims history check/invoice number information. These web portals have provider network information such as:
- Provider manuals
- Authorization guides
- Healthy related newsletters
- And other provider communications
In regards to user account management, provider portals from Medicaid, Medicare, Coventry, Cigna and other medical groups, offer restricted access based on the required access. The portals also send secure messages and notifications. For instance, when there are secure messages from provider services, email notifications are sent to providers advising them about the secure messages.
The portals also send questions to support/customer services regarding claims, network status, member eligibility, provider demographics among other information. In regards to document distribution, they give providers access to reports, correspondence as well as other documents securely.
Effectively, providers can view new and archived reports on capitation, quality assurance and census data.
Electronic Medical Records vs. Paper Charts
An EMR (Electronic Medical Records) can be defined as a digital paper chart containing the medical history of all patients in a practice. They are used by healthcare providers for treatment and diagnosis. The EMR patient portal meaningful use usually warrants for some form of data sharing which usually takes place via network-connected and enterprise wide information systems among other types of information exchanges or networks in cases where there are many practices including with organizations such as the American Red Cross.
EMRs are used to share a wide range of patient data:
- Medical history
- Lab test results
- Immunization status
- Radiology images
- Personal statistics (age and weight)
- Differently vital signs and metrics
- And billing & account information
They have more benefits than paper records because of obvious reasons i.e. they allow providers to; track data, identify patients due for screening and preventative visits, improve the overall quality of services offered. It is important to note that the info stored on these records can’t be shared easily with providers outside a practice. In fact, patient records may never need to be printed out since they are usually delivered via email to the care team and specialists.
It is important to note the difference between an electronic medical records and electronic health records to avoid confusing the two. One of the main differences lies in the scope. EMRs contain clinical and standard medical data gathered from one provider. On the other hand, electronic health records acquire data beyond provider offices.
The data is also more comprehensive i.e. it includes patient history data. Another notable difference lies in the fact that electronic health records contain info which is shared by all providers participating in a patient’s treatment and care.
Patient Advocacy is Here to Stay
Patient advocacy refers to a health care field which focuses on educating patients about using health plans and obtaining the required care. Government consumer advocacy organizations act as patient advocates. It is also important to note that patient advocacy can encompass groups which develop legislation and policies aimed at improving processes or systems for patients i.e. the ACS (American Cancer Society) and the BDA (British Diabetic Association).
Such patient advocacy groups are usually non-profit and focused on specific health aspects, awareness campaigns, conducting fundraising etc. Below is a discussion on the main arms of patient advocacy: Safety and Education.
This is a relatively new healthcare discipline that focuses on reporting, analysis and prevention of healthcare errors which often cause adverse medical events. Patient safety became increasingly important in the recent past as the number of avoidable patient events increased. It was initiated by the World Health Organization (also known as the WHO) after the organization labelled avoidable medical errors as an epidemic. It is important it note that safety in relation to patients is guided by research literature and theory. The resulting knowledge continually guides improvement efforts such as adopting innovative technologies, educating providers & consumers, enhancing error reporting as well as developing economic incentives.
This is another important part of patient advocacy. The importance of patient education and counseling is immeasurable and can be defined as the process where healthcare professionals among other healthcare stakeholders educate patients as well as their caregivers. The main aim of educating patients is to promote healthy behavior. This is achieved by educating patients as well as their caregivers who have a very important role in influencing patient’s healthy living.
Education providers include:
- Registered nurses
- Health librarians
- Social workers
- Special interest groups
The value of free patient education handouts on hypertension and diabetes lies in the ability of patients and those near them understanding disease, medical conditions or disability in order to fully be in compliance.
Even though the health care sector has been the slowest one to adopt new technologies, and rightly so considering the privacy concerns and sensitive patient information they have on their hands, the continued transformations and push by leading content management providers like Saba, are picking up their development pace and with each new roll out new features and benefits are making their way into our lives, making it easier, faster, and cheaper to access our medical information.
Consequently, patient portal vendors (of which the top ones are eClinicalWorks, Allscripts, Medfusion and e-MDs) are also making a large impact on how we access and interact with our providers, physicians, and medical services. A change that has long been over due but never the less very welcoming to have available today.
Some of the above information is best visually showed instead of verbally described. So if you have more questions then please view the below video for a brief tutorial on what portal can do for you: