Patient portals business means big money

Market disruption imminent as providers aggressively adopt portal technology

The U.S. patient portal market is booming and is expected to reach $898.4 million by 2017, up from $279.8 million in 2012 – representing a 221 percent increase, a new study says.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan's "U.S. Patient Portal Market for Hospitals and Physicians: Overview and Outlook, 2012–2017," has found that the majority of revenue will primarily result from increased demand driven by myriad forces including the need to meet Stage 2 meaningful use requirements, the growing move to clinical integration and accountable care, and increasing consumer demand for health information technology.

Approximately 50 percent of U.S. hospitals and 40 percent of U.S. physicians in ambulatory practice possess some type of patient portal technology, mostly acquired as a module of their practice management or electronic health record system, according to the study.

[See also: Consumers get serious about their EMRs.]

While the availability of patient portals does not necessarily translate into active provider or patient use, the technology is emerging as the key platform for various efforts around patient engagement such as access to medical records, communication with providers, education, wellness tracking and e-visits, say Frost & Sullivan researchers.

Patient portals are Web-based applications enabling patients to interact and communicate with their healthcare providers. Patient portal adoption and active use is accelerating dramatically across the U.S., driven by Stage 2 MU requirements, scheduled to begin in October 2013 for hospitals and January 2014 for physicians.

Stage 2 MU requires providers to adopt and use technology that allows patients to electronically view, download and transmit electronic copies of their own medical records. Patient portals are the key technology that will help providers meet these requirements. In addition, providers that adopt patient portals will enjoy a competitive advantage as patients increasingly demand convenient, 24/7 access to their financial and clinical data.

"The need to fully engage patients as a member of the care team is fundamentally about encouraging individuals to become more involved with their healthcare, so they will be motivated to make behavioral changes that can positively impact their health status," said Frost & Sullivan Connected Health Principal Analyst Nancy Fabozzi. "That need will only grow as the healthcare system moves towards accountable care and value-based reimbursement. The importance of this movement cannot be underestimated."

The majority of healthcare providers are primarily adopting patient portals that are built in or added on as a module to their PM or EHR system. This adoption era can be considered "Patient Portal 1.0." However, because the majority of solutions available today are not capable of providing the advanced interoperability and functionality needed to support clinical integration, accountable care and ongoing and sustainable patient engagement, significant disruption is forecasted in the years to come.

"As healthcare reform and transformation advances, providers will seek new ways to engage patients and influence behavior beyond the point of care and will increasingly look to the more advanced solutions that are proven to consistently motivate patient compliance and sustained behavioral change," said Fabozzi. "These solutions, which can be considered 'Patient Portal 2.0,' will have robust functions such as health information exchange across diverse care settings, integration of clinical and financial data, dynamic scheduling, social networking, gaming, avatars for personalized health coaching, and e-visits."

[See also: Hospitals ready for meaningful use now.]