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Good News, Physicians: Patients Do Want to Access Online Portals
by Tamara St. Claire
Americans are generally interested in participating in online patient portals. In Xerox’s annual survey on the usage of EHRs, more than half of respondents who don’t already use portals (57 percent), said they would be more interested and proactive in their personal healthcare if they had online access to their medical records. I personally love using the portal provided by my doctor, particularly to view test results without scheduling another in-person appointment.
This motivation is good news for providers, many of whom are working on the Meaningful Use Stage 2 view, download, and transmit requirement. Aside from MUS2, there are many benefits to patient engagement that help providers as they strive to deliver quality care in a patient-centric healthcare system.
Many patients simply aren’t hearing from their physicians about the option to access portals. Thirty five percent of Americans surveyed said they were unaware that they existed. Another 31 percent said their physician had never spoken to them about patient portals. When we look at some of the best practices out there, we see that having that conversation multiple times along the patient’s path through the office is most effective. People view the physician as the trusted voice, so it’s really important for physicians to engage in that conversation in the exam room.
However, the survey also highlighted patient preferences that were somewhat divided along generational lines, with Millennials and Baby Boomers reporting different ideas about what they like to see and do when it comes to online engagement. Personalizing the discussion is key to helping providers overcome engagement challenges and increasing patient engagement long term.
For example, our survey found that Baby Boomers are really interested in using portals on a transactional basis. For them, the utility of a patient portal is about efficiency. They want to be able to schedule appointments, view test results, ask questions, and order refills. Providers can motivate Boomers to use a portal to get answers to questions more quickly, and order refills – without ever picking up the phone.
On the other hand, we found that Millennials want to see information and resources in a portal that are individualized for them. Forty four percent of patients aged 18 to 34 said they wanted to view tailored recommendations or learn more about other services their healthcare provider has available. They also prefer the convenience of doing so on a mobile device. Therefore, engaging Millennials is about providing them with an individualized experience that suits their lifestyle, whether that’s through smartphones, tablets, or other devices.
This year, providers seeking MUS2 will be required to succeed during a full, 365-day MU reporting period, compared to just a 90-day reporting period in 2014. Patient engagement must be a top priority for providers – both for this reason, and because a knowledgeable and active patient is ultimately a healthier patient, demonstrated by the fact that 59 percent of respondents who already are using portals feel they are now more interested and proactive in their personal healthcare.
Tamara St. Claire is Chief Innovation Officer of Xerox Commercial Healthcare of Norwalk, CT.