Next-generation patient portals: making population health management work
As healthcare providers transition to population health management, they have recognized that engaging patients is essential to success. So far, they’ve largely relied on basic patient portals to do this. While fulfilling meaningful use requirements, these basic, single-source portals do little to actually engage patients in their care. Next-generation patient portals are going to be needed to gain the attention of patients and move toward effective population health management.
Healthcare organizations need to seize opportunities to use technology much more effectively to support patients in managing their healthcare. The next generation of patient portals – interoperable rather than single-source – will enable organizations to make progress toward population health management, according to P. Nelson Le, MD, senior clinical advisor for InterSystems.
From a patient perspective, current portals are often a burden and make very little sense because each provider organization that touches a patient is likely to have a separate portal, with each requiring different registrations, log-ins and passwords, and showing a wide range of data displayed differently.
These separate portals don’t present a unified view of patients’ medical information and offer little or no opportunity for patients to add relevant follow-up information on their current condition, response to drugs or treatment, or other indicators of their health status, said Le.
Current, single-source technology needs to be adapted to create a “one-stop shopping experience” for patients, he said, so patients can enter one portal and access all their medical, pharmacy, laboratory, insurance and other information.
Per Le, in addition to offering all their medical information in one, easily accessible place, next-generation patient portals will serve as a communication tool between physicians and patients. “Patient engagement solutions need to be mutually beneficial to both patients and physicians.”
“For physicians to take good care of their patients, they need to know what happens between patient visits,” he said. “Most physicians won’t find out patients are having trouble with medication or having symptoms for months, and they lose that time in which they can intervene.”
With patients and physicians communicating through interoperable patient portals, wait times could be mitigated, turnaround times for tasks decreased and medical care decisions could be made more quickly and accurately, according to Le. “Engaging patients and allowing them to contribute data is important since the bigger risk is losing contact with patients between encounters,” he said. ““Better data enables better decisions, which ultimately leads to better patient care.”
Furthermore, since other members of the care team are also communicating through the portal, the whole team has the same information simultaneously; making workflows more efficient and ensuring patients get the most appropriate care in a timely fashion.
With their comprehensive data sets, these next-generation patient portals will also alert physicians to gaps in care, allowing physicians to better manage those with chronic conditions and intervene before health deteriorates. In essence, the goal is to keep patients as healthy as possible and minimize healthcare expenditures – two key goals under risk-based reimbursement systems.