by: Heather Marney, Director, Epic Ambulator; Michael Nelson, DPM, VP of Strategy and Business Development; and Deepika Patel, MBA, CPHIMS, Analyst/Consultant
Patient as a Consumer: A prevailing philosophy is that active patient engagement is necessary to achieve optimal outcomes – promoting ongoing wellness on a daily basis could help patients become engaged participants when important healthcare information is easily available to them. Many healthcare organizations have implemented patient portals to realize this goal. However, patients may receive healthcare from multiple providers, each with its own patient portal requiring its own user name and password. The inconvenience of maintaining and remembering multiple patient portal URLs, user names, passwords and resets for lost passwords, creates an environment that is too cumbersome for any patient to be motivated to use a patient portal on an ongoing basis.
The most logical place for a patient portal is the regional health information exchange which can serve as a one-stop-shop accessible with a single user name and password for the patient to aggregate his medical information from all of his participating providers. One environment would allow a more user-friendly and engaging environment for the patient consumer.
A single unified portal would be a useful tool for patients, especially those who have doctors that are not able to provide a patient portal, but are able to supply the medical records to the regional HIE. A single unified portal would also be beneficial for patients who are relocating or traveling. Patients could login to one site rather than multiple portals and would no longer need to consolidate their records offline. A one-stop-shop for medical records should also function as a “health” credit report by providing comprehensive information that patients can review and edit resulting in an alert sent to the appropriate providers via the HIE. There is another advantage to having access to comprehensive records – the patients become more productive by minimizing the time it takes to gather and update their records outside of their appointments and can focus on prevention and wellness.
By having access to patient records via the HIE, providers can affect insurance coverage or provide previously unknown information, which could influence current and future treatments. This could also offset or minimize any technology or information barriers that are generally associated with multiple patient portals by providing similar training by multiple facilities and clinics.
Technology is not the only barrier associated with engaging consumers in accessing an HIE, other barriers include a lack or low public awareness of the existence of HIEs. Cohesive patient education and training on how to use and access a HIE can help increase the likelihood of consumers maintaining their health records. HIE portals have the potential to equip patient consumers with more information on how to take control of their own health, which in turn, helps reduce expanding healthcare costs in the future.