With Meaningful Use continuing to drive the adoption of healthcare information technology, it’s no surprise that one of the major developments in this year’s HIT market is a marked increase in patient portal adoption. But while most providers understand the value of portals from a patient perspective, they remain unconvinced of the business benefits. And while reliable studies showing significant financial gain from portals are in short supply, obvious benefits exist that contribute to a better bottom line for healthcare providers.
Meaningful Use Incentives
The immediate return on investment from patient portals is their ability to help providers meet Meaningful Use Stage 2 requirements. For the unaware, the most prevalent Stage 2 core objective requires that providers supply more than 50 percent of their patients with online access to their health information with more than five percent actually viewing, transmitting, or downloading the information.
It hasn’t always been simple for providers to meet this objective, but numerous use cases exist showcasing patients’ willingness to utilize a patient portal, especially in the case of Kaiser Permanente. After the West Coast health system implemented its patient portal in 2004, visits to its site tripled over the next three years. Patients have shown a willingness to use portals so long as they provide an intuitive experience and offer relevant services.
Implementing a portal makes patients happier, and it’s not hard to understand why. If healthcare is viewed as a true marketplace – which it increasingly is – then consumers will choose providers who offer them the greatest level of access to their personal information. Increased customer access is already a fact of life in other service-based markets, and the same expectations are being brought to bear on healthcare.
Why would a patient want to print off their records and carry them around in a manila folder if they can simply pull the records up on an app through their smartphone?
But how does patient satisfaction translate into money?
Continuing with the marketplace example, satisfied patients are much more likely to tell their peers about their experience and recommend their provider to others. Additionally, sites like Vitals let patients rate their experience online, which can positively, or negatively, affect new patient acquisition.
For providers working in a hospital setting, patient satisfaction is also now directly tied to reimbursement. Under CMS’s Hospital Inpatient Value-Based purchasing program, patient satisfaction surveys contribute to value-based incentive payments made to hospitals by the federal government.
The implication is obvious: if patients are unsatisfied with the level of service they receive, they have the power to negatively affect provider revenue.
Quality of Care
Depending on the product offered by EHR vendors, patient portals can move beyond appointment scheduling, and allow patients to update their problem and medication lists. This type of access supplies physicians with the most up to date health information, and can reduce the risk of adverse events.
Patient portals also help streamline practice workflow, which results in more efficient care for patients. For example, relaying lab results to a patient averages 4.2 phone calls. Portals simply post the lab results on a secure website, which patients can interact with directly, and at their own convenience. Speedier, more effective care helps providers produce better outcomes for their patients, and offers patients a better, more streamline experience.
Patient portals also contribute to cost savings and revenue generation in others ways, such as by helping practices eliminate the $400 to $500 in paper they use each month. So while patient portals are being implemented to better the patient experience, if used properly, they can also help practices acquire new patients, and improve their quality of care – both of which contribute to the bottom-line.