Electronic Health Records

Adoption & Implementation News

How do patient portals improve the coordination of care?

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

Patient-centered care aims to make patients a part of coordinating their care in order to improve outcomes. To bring patients into the fold, healthcare organizations and providers must have strategies and systems in place to engage them. Stage 2 Meaningful Use has a part to play in challenging eligible professionals and hospitals to make patient engagement a meaningful component of their care delivery.

In the conclusion of a two-part interview, Catholic Health Partners CMIO Stephen Beck, MD, FACP, FHIMSS, reveals how his organization in bridging the communication gap between providers and patients and creating valuable connections between these two sets of individuals.

Editor’s note: Read part one of this interview here.

Why is patient access to health information so important at Catholic Health Partners?

We want to make it as easy as possible for patients to receive excellent, quality care. Really, that is what  our mobile applications and patient portal allow them to do — gain easy access to their doctor (frankly easier than picking up the phone), medication refills, communication, and education.

What has your organization done to ensure that both providers and patients are engaged?

We recently started a system-wide patient engagement education that includes media, TV, and print, encouraging patients to talk to their providers about using our portal. The intent is to educate patients and continue to educate our providers as we realize there is some economy in the use of our patient portal. We have many providers who use it very frequently and love it and others who have been reticent and slow to adopt. We’re trying to narrow that gap on the provider side while simultaneously educating patients with new outreach about the importance of communicating with your provider when you’re on the go such as through your mobile device — it’s like having your provider next to you at all times — when you really need them.




How has meaningful use benefitted or hindered health information exchange (HIE)?

It has always been my concern that meaningful use might cause stagnation with vendors as a side effect. All of those things vendors and clients want to work on together— excellent new  enhancements, innovation — may have been restricted due to simple access to development resources.  However, the positive piece is the fact that we’ve raised the bar to the point of a new minimum standard for integration and interoperability, and those pieces are going to improve the care across the community.

Improving access and delivering care to the under-served is important to our mission at CHP. Collaboration across the community is going to be a very positive outcome from this work. Some communities are well connected right now with HIEs and other interaction at the community level, but most are still very competitive. By nature of making it easier to share information about patient care and improving continuity, I hope the patient will be the winner relative to meaningful use and HIE integration.

Why Stage 2 Meaningful Use more challenging for ambulatory providers, especially in terms of patient engagement?

On the ambulatory side, the big challenge is not simply with the vendor functionality, but also the patient interaction. Consider patient engagement through our patient portal, for example. While we have many enrolled patients in our patient portal, it’s not simply the enrollment but the actual use in Stage 2 that meets the criteria. Although the threshold is fairly low, there is still ongoing concern about how we can encourage patients to use the portal regularly, knowing it is really a powerful tool. We want patients to use electronic communication rather than pick up the phone. For many patients this transition will take quite some time to achieve.  I have confidence the patients will see the light — the question is: How quickly?  Hopefully 2014 will be the year.

Read part one of this interview here.





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