Empowering Patients – The Power of Patient Portals

Updated on February 7, 2024

A shooting migraine at 11 p.m. makes Miss P wonder if she can make an appointment to see her doctor in the morning. Miss H needs to request her medication refill, and her physician’s office is closed. Miss R finally has time to pay her medical bills, but her biller has closed for the day. While these issues could exist in a medical system, a solution has emerged to solve the problems of Miss P, Miss H and Miss R — a well-designed patient health portal (PHR). Enabling patients to access and use the information in online medical records and patient portals can optimize a provider’s operations, maximize revenue, and enhance the quality of patient care and satisfaction.

The Birth of the PHR

In past decades, patients were generally not incentivized to play an active role in their health management. Physicians kept paper charts and used them to maintain health information. However, a 2009 law earmarked $19 billion to improve health information technology, including electronic medical records and patient portals. Physicians’ offices upgraded to use specialized software for practice management (appointments and billing) and a fax for prescriptions, labs and other communications. With the increased use of cloud-based software for office applications such as sales and invoicing, cloud-based electronic health systems began to emerge to automate many office applications as well as charting, prescriptions and labs, propelling efficiencies and medical information communications to greater heights.

Despite the growth in adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), patient engagement remained a lower priority. This started to change when providers offered products such as CharmPHR to patients who were familiar with workflow systems such as cloud-based email, word-processing, accounting, or other productivity software. Patients initially began to utilize patient health records to make appointments and request medication refills.

Today, more and more patients are requesting access to medical records, according to a new report from The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. Three in five people were offered and accessed their online record or patient portal last year, which was a 50% increase over 2020.

Navigating Wellness: A Day in the Life of a Patient and Her Health Portal

Patient portals offer several benefits to providers and users. For patients, a PHR can transform the patient experience. Today, a patient can pick up the phone and request an appointment with her doctor at any time, from anywhere, with online scheduling on a PHR. Once the appointment is confirmed, the patient can be alerted by the PHR. The physician might want to optimize the appointment time by requesting patients fill out a questionnaire with detailed information, such as current medications or systems, once again, through the PHR. Allowing the patient to input all this valuable information at her convenience increases accuracy and saves some data entry, as this information is imported to the chart.

During the appointment, the physician reviews all the information at hand, including the inputs from the PHR. The doctor charts the encounter and often prescribes medications and labs. The patient does not have to write notes to remember this information. The doctor does not need to run to the printer to print patient education materials. The PHR comes to the rescue. The physician lets the patient know that the encounter summary, treatment plan, any prescriptions, lab orders, and educational material are all shared through the patient portal.

The patient leaves the physician’s office knowing that all the information is one PHR login away. She checks her phone and looks at the encounter summary. She receives a text alert from the pharmacy about a new prescription. She looks through her PHR and finds that another prescription needs a refill. She sends a refill request out to the doctor through the PHR. It is approved, and she can pick up the medication on her way home.

Crafting Success: A Blueprint for Patient Health Record Implementation

  1. Select a PHR that suits your practice needs. Select one with an intuitive user interface that is customizable to the practice. Choose one with the features you need, such as appointments, messaging, and tight integration with the EHR.
  1. Narrow down your selection to one with a user-friendly design. Patients are often in a hurry or may be sick. The PHR should be their friend and not pose obstacles in usability.
  1. In today’s digital age, patients expect convenience. A mobile-responsive patient portal allows patients to access their health information from smartphones and tablets, increasing accessibility and engagement.
  1. Engage your staff. Ensure your clinical staff understands the benefits of the patient portal and how to use it effectively. Offer training sessions to empower them to guide patients through the system.
  1. Promote patient adoption. Actively promote the patient portal to your patients. Explain the benefits, provide user guides, and offer support to encourage adoption.
  1. Collect patient feedback. Continuously seek feedback from your patients to improve care delivery. Their input is invaluable for enhancing the patient experience.
  1. Monitor and evaluate. Regularly monitor the portal’s usage and patient feedback. Use this data to make improvements and refine your patient engagement strategies.

Unlocking the Potential of Next-Gen Patient Health Records

As patients become more engaged in the management of their own healthcare, the modern PHR will continue to play an increasingly important role in their lives. In the future, the PHR will connect with wearables and devices at the patient’s home. Data and insights will automatically be uploaded to the PHR/EHR and alert the physician or emergency services. The PHR will be used by patients to track their diet, exercise, medication regimens, and state of well-being, all shared with the physician to assist in decision-making.

With her doctor’s office closed, is it too late for Miss P to refill her medication? She can talk to her friendly chatbot assistant on the PHR to get it done. Her concerned assistant reminds her that she is due for her mammogram. “Oh! And Miss P, it is time to pay your bill!” says the friendly voice of the PHR.

As first seen in HealthIT Answers. Reprinted with permission.

Pramila Srinivasan
Founder at CharmHealth

Pramila Srinivasan graduated from Purdue University with a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering in 1997. She founded MedicalMine Inc in 2007, inspired by a desire to enable medical establishments, large and small, to access cutting-edge technologies to assist in clinical care and documentation. Building on that success, she founded CharmHealth out of a desire to provide superior cloud-based solutions for practice management, clinical care, and patient engagement.

Prior to this, Dr. Srinivasan worked in research and development in areas of multimedia signal processing algorithms and medical data neural network classification, security algorithms, and speech recognition in startup companies that developed technologies for leading consumer electronics products.

She also serves as president and founder of The BRAIN Foundation, a California non-profit with the mission to accelerate development of FDA-approved therapeutics to benefit individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders.

For more information on CharmHealth, visit www.charmhealth.com. To get breaking news, follow the company @charmhealth and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/charmhealth.