Patient portals are often considered as much a patient loyalty strategy as a clinical tool. But what if all the providers in a community contributed all their patients’ data to the same portal? Bad for strategic advantage, but good for patient care.

Patients in tiny Batesville, Ind., can log into one portal to see their information not only from all local providers, but from larger hospitals in Cincinnati where they often go for more complex treatments and inpatient care. The hub is Margaret Mary Health, a critical access hospital that cares for the 6,500 residents of Batesville along with more than 20,000 patients from the surrounding communities.

Trisha Prickel, Margaret Mary’s director of information systems, and Donna Nobbe, who held the same position before going to work for the state of Indiana, will relate the saga of how Margaret Mary HealthConnect was created and populated with HIE data from multiple providers, and various challenges encountered along the way. They’ll offer practical advice to other providers interested in doing the same during the session “Innovation in the Heartland - Deploying an Interoperable Community Patient Portal” scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 27 at 10:30-11:30 a.m.

The community had a health information exchange up and running for providers in 2008, and decided to extend it to patients. “For us, it was a natural extension and we had no idea no one else was doing it,” Nobbe says.  Like many communities, Batesville has a profusion of EHR systems among its physicians. In addition, patients frequently divide their care between local physicians and specialists in the big city.  Without the single community-wide portal, they would have to log into multiple portals to gather all their information. 

On the “to-do” list is adding Indianapolis hospitals to the mix.

About 3,600 patients have registered, and about a thousand are active users, just in the six months since the service launched. Patients are enrolled as they come to the hospital or visit their physicians. One patient comes to Batesville only to see a particular gynecologist, and has signed up for portal access. While that patient can enter information from her other physicians manually right now, Prickel hopes to spread the portal’s adoption enough that patients in that situation will eventually have access to all their information, regardless of source.

Access to the information has already had tangible impact, Prickel says. For example, one ob/gyn signed up one of his high-risk pregnancy patients. “She did a complete 180 on her self-care and could stay off diabetic medicine,” she says. “If she hadn’t been compliant, she would have been transferred to a high-risk center and would have delivered at another hospital. Because we were able to monitor her care, we could keep her local.”

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