Health care seems to be a bit behind the game as an industry when it comes to using technology to aid in processes and patient care, but many providers are quickly beginning to see the value in implementing systems like Electronic Medical Records (EMRs) and patient portals.
EMRs are medical charts in a digital version, and health care systems have slowly been moving over to these for a while. According to Dr. Abimbolu Makinde at St. Joseph’s Family Medicine in Phoenix, St. Joe’s adopted an EMR for its clinics three years ago and implemented one for its hospital this past May.
That’s an important first step, but to go the extra mile for patients, many health care systems are also beginning to use patient portals. According to a 2012 study by KLAS Research, more than half of the hospitals, health care systems and clinics surveyed had some sort of patient portal in place.
Clinics offering this service give patients access to their medical information wherever they are. This means patients can easily see other doctors in different clinics and even out of town – all they have to do is bring their medical history to the appointment.
Portals also benefit providers, as they can create more efficient processes and improve communication. Physicians can use these systems to share important information directly with both other physicians and each patient.
What’s in patient portal software?
One local practice trying out a patient portal is Kyrene Internal Medicine. It uses a secure website to serve patients while staying in compliance with HIPAA. The portal allows patients the ability to perform the following tasks from anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection.
- View and update health records
- Schedule and cancel appointments
- Communicate with physicians and nurses
- Reference health summaries
- Check lab and test results
- Email prescription refills
- See billing information
How do patient portal technologies affect business?
Some may be hesitant to jump on the bandwagon because it is hard to calculate concrete ROI and justify the cost of a patient portal. While the financial return may not be through the roof up front, the offerings of a system like this can immediately provide a better experience for patients.
If that’s not enough, it also offers a competitive edge over those practices not offering patient access. A 2012 survey by Accenture reported 83 percent of patients surveyed want to access personal medical records from the internet and 72 percent want to be able to schedule or adjust appointments and request prescription refills online. If you are providing a portal and your competitor is not, a patient may be more likely to choose your practice simply for the convenience of access.
When patients have more involvement and access to care, they take more personal responsibility for their health, and outcomes improve. By offering a way for patients to interact and get information without taking the time from a staff member, portals can also reduce costs and inefficiencies long-term.
If the portal can satisfy common patient requests, more time can be spent on actually seeing patients and building relationships. This is one of the most important keys to a successful practice in terms of business, as a consumer-focused practice leads to greater patient retention. The initial investment may push your budget and it make take time to educate staff and patients on how to use the software, but ultimately this technology can help leverage patient compliance and involvement in their own health. Plus, some practices have even used patients to help subsidize the cost by charging a fee for access to the portal (along with a certain amount of extra services).
What does patient portal software cost?
So what does that investment look like? The price can vary depending on the patient portal vendor you select and the features you choose to include. A portal with all of the bells and whistles can cost as much as a few hundred thousand dollars to set up, and some may even require monthly payments for maintenance. A simpler version with basic features like appointment scheduling and question submissions could probably be created for tens of thousands of dollars and is still an upgrade from offering patients nothing. In the long run, any investment could be worth the price tag if it gives patients what they want.
Wrapping your head around this step forward is no small task. That’s where Gate6 comes in. We provide off-the-shelf solutions to help achieve your goals without totally reinventing the wheel. We can also integrate systems to make a transition to a new portal easier. Are you ready to get ahead in the game?