The Major – and Perhaps Not-So-Evident – Benefits of Patient Portals
Believe it or not, patient portals have been around for more than 20 years, yet still there are numerous medical practices that have not fully embraced the electronic tools that enable two-way patient-communication and more accurate patient information.
After patients create a secure login to the portal they have unimpeded access to so much useful information to better manage their healthcare at many levels. Some of the top benefits of patient portals include access to:
- Medical history, immunizations and records
- Direct communication with their doctor via secure message and/or e-mail
- The ability to set appointments for in-office and telehealth appointments,, which can often be conducted through the portal
- Lab and diagnostic test results as soon as they are available
- More swift electronic prescription ordering
- Faster copays and bill payment for medical services provided
- Educational materials, tailored to the patient, and
- Visit summaries and notes from the doctor
Benefits and Challenges
Most of these patient benefits also benefit medical practices, improving their operational efficiency and revenue cycle management, as well as boosting the safety and quality of clinical care by reducing information disparities. Strong and accurate patient portal information also can improve care coordination among multiple doctors and specialists. For example, when a patient enters or updates their medical history, current medications or even their local pharmacy in a patient portal, it alleviates the manual entry required by the physician during an exam.
As with all things, there are some challenges that accompany the myriad benefits of patient portals, including data security, equal access to all patients, and some design and usability barriers. The good news is that, according to Pew Research, 90% percent of Americans are online now and nearly 80% own smartphones, with low-income households and those over 50 showing a sharp uptick in ownership recently, a trend that is expected to continue, as is access to broadband.
Another less obvious benefit of patient portals is that it can eliminate waste, especially in the form of paper, envelopes, printing and manual filing systems. And the good news is that waste elimination also saves a medical practice money.
So, if all of the above benefits aren’t enough to convince your practice to take the patient portal plunge, perhaps reducing your carbon footprint will do the trick.