The Patient Portal: Giving People Control Over Their Health Data

patient portal This article by Ambra Health CEO, Morris Panner, was originally published on Forbes on October 2, 2019. 

The focus of most digital transformations taking place across the health industry is to make health care truly patient-centric. The rapid adoption and implementation of disruptive technologies, such as the cloud, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, continue to accelerate in health care. A common theme running through this disruption is making patients a meaningful part of the health care process.

It’s about making health care more inclusive and ensuring the treatment process becomes more personalized.

A patient portal is one such health care solution that aims to strengthen the tenuous bond between patients and their providers by becoming a single source of consolidated patient information. This private information can be securely accessed by patients who can then share it with whomever they want — whenever the need arises.

What Are Patient Portals?

The roots of a patient portal lie in electronic health care records (EHR) and the fact that the federal government mandates the meaningful use of EHR, which helps health care organizations qualify for incentive programs. EHRs enable patient portals, as they ensure access to personal health information at any given point of time — from any place with an internet connection. This information includes discharge summaries, immunizations, lab results and much more.

Patient Portals: Enriching Patient Care

One clear benefit many patients gain from patient portals is a more structured approach toward both managing and resolving their health concerns. Empowered with the right information, many patients are able to take better ownership of their health, which is yielding encouraging outcomes in several areas:

• Health care providers now see a growing number of patients taking better care of themselves between scheduled visits.

Instead of reactively fighting symptoms and following old-fashioned “disease-care” to recover from illness, more patients are embracing advanced and timely treatment options.

• Patients now have a clearer picture of their health data and are also able to communicate and share it quickly with trusted sources.

As Gartner analyst Mark Gilbert states: “We’re going to see a highly personalized portal, one that aggregates data from multiple sources, that can contextualize the data, run analytics on it, and that can empower patients as they navigate their health journey. These tools will become a critically important part of a precision health model.”

According to a poll by the Medical Group Management Association, more and more health care organizations are investing in technology that helps boost patient engagement, and as a result, there is a 90% portal adoption rate among these organizations.

However, challenges do exist from the patient’s point of view. How does one ensure there is more patient buy-in when it comes to patient portals?

Building Motivated Patient Communities

One of the ways you can boost patient portal usage is to involve patients as co-creators or co-designers. This exercise can help health care providers use truly participatory methods to win over patients’ trust.  An example of this is the “image-enabled patient” adopted by Frederick Regional (an Ambra Health customer), which allows users of their portal online, shareable access to their radiological images, including ultrasounds and X-rays.

Health care organizations should consider providing the right incentives to patients who use their portal regularly. They can also encourage them to drive usage by spreading awareness among a larger pool of patients who are unaware of the benefits facilitated by patient portals. This not only helps increase usage of these portals, but it also gives impetus to knowledge-sharing regarding wellness, fitness and lifestyle issues.

Empowering And Delivering Better Health

There are patients who think using a patient portal is not a good idea or a waste of time. Typically, patients who are relatively healthy do not see sense in using a patient portal. A report from the GAO corroborates the fact that many patients who are either old or healthy do not see the need to access their EHRs using patient portals. Health care providers must ensure these particular groups understand the benefits of a patient portal. The most obvious benefit is that a patient information portal reduces friction between the health care process and the patient.

A better understanding of patient portals can be achieved by first gaining patient trust in this technology. Garnering trust requires that key participants, including health care service providers and insurance companies, collaborate to showcase the demonstratable benefits of using these portals.

The journey toward achieving patient-centered health care requires a commitment to giving the right incentives. Becoming patient-centric essentially requires thinking from a patient’s perspective, which calls for developing user-friendly portals that resonate with patients.

Morris Panner HIMSS

About Morris Panner

As CEO of Ambra, Morris Panner leads the company on its mission of delivering better care through better technology. Morris is an active voice in the cloud and enterprise software arena, focused on the services and healthcare verticals. He is a frequent contributor to business, healthcare, and technology publications. Before Ambra, Morris built and sold an industry-leading business-process software company, OpenAir, to NetSuite (NYSE:N). He once served as the US Embassy Resident Legal Advisor in Bogota, Colombia; and his first job ever was as a janitor at his old high school while on summer break from college. Both of these very different experiences taught him valuable lessons about the human condition, and make him cherish his time with family that much more. Morris has a BA from Yale University and a JD from Harvard University.

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