Slideshow Power of the Patient Portal

  • May 01 2012, 2:51pm EDT
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Power of the Portal

Here’s a glimpse of the features offered by health systems and group practices with advanced patient portals. Nuts and bolts transactions like these go a long way to building patient loyalty—and help improve practice efficiency to boot.

Lab and Test Results

Delivering results electronically can be a win-win for the patient and the provider. The patient sees their results more quickly, and the practice avoids the expense of mailing and follow-up. In addition, electronic delivery of results can be buttressed with automatic alerts to providers. Delivering the results electronically cuts back on phone calls with patients as well.

Larry Garber, M.D., medical director, informatics, at Reliant Medical Group, a 250 physician practice in Worchester, Mass., says that automating electronic delivery of lab results and other portions of the chart helps the practice meet meaningful use criteria which require practices to provide copies of patient data on request.

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Chart Access

Many portals grant patients the ability to see large portions of their official medical record. At the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, 87,000 patients have signed up for portal access through its Epic EHR, says G. Daniel Martich, M.D., the chief medical information officer. Patients can see a summary view of the current medications, a list of previous medications, other medical history, and lab and radiology results from the ambulatory setting. In addition, they can see discharge summaries and operative reports from the inpatient side of the house.

Online Scheduling

Requesting an online appointment is a bedrock service that any modern hospital should offer, says John Moore, founder, Chilmark Research. “It is a simple task,” he says, but health care providers who offer it usually get good public response. Women’s Care Florida, a 13-physician group practice in Orlando, fulfills about 8,000 annual appointment requests annually, saving on phone calls and staff time, says Administrator Lisa Mangan. Its portal is part of its EHR, from Greenway Medical Technologies.

Secure Messaging

Patients at Heartland health, a 32-bed hospital in St. Joseph, Mo., use a patient portal embedded in its Cerner EHR. Patients use the secure messaging feature to communicate with physicians, says David Voran, M.D., medical director of Heartland’s Innovation Clinic. Patients with chronic conditions are the most avid users of the service.

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Refill Requests

Women’s Care Florida completes 2,500 annual prescription refill requests electronically, says Matthew Mervice, M.D., one of 13 physicians at the practice. This and other electronic transactions have contributed to a more efficient practice, he says. “Patients don’t have to call and wait on hold.”

To read more about the state of personal health records and patient portals, click here for HDM's feature story, "Where's the Love for PHRs?"