Why providers should consider using patient portals

May 9, 2016 | Hospital Finance Efficiency

In an industrywide  shift to value-based care, certain innovations are helping providers find cost-effective solutions to improve their quality of care.

One such method is through Patient Portal, an online application that facilitates communication between doctors and patients. Through this platform, patients are able to obtain their personal health information at any time.

The Health Benefits

"Patients can more easily access critical information."

A major benefit of this application is that patients can easily access critical information, like medication details and lab results, allowing them to play a more active role in their health.

In fact, patients have even shown a distinct willingness to handle certain health care-related operations online, according to research by Xerox. The survey found that 57 percent of patients who don't currently use patient portals are interested in them and would be much more active in their health care because of them.

"Educating patients will empower them to participate more fully in their own care while helping providers demonstrate that electronic health records are being used in a meaningful way," Tamara St. Claire, chief innovation officer of commercial Health Care for Xerox, said in a press release.

The Financial Benefits
A 2015 study published in Health Affairs found that increased patient participation can improve health outcomes, which can ultimately have financial benefits for providers. As explained by Health Care Finance News, by helping patients through simple questions and tasks, patient portals cut out the need for extra or strained staffing.

"The primary way it's benefited us financially is by not forcing us to hire more admins as our practice has grown," Michael Middleton, MD, told Health Care Finance News. "The efficiency comes with instantly directing the right message to the right person. The other part is accountability; things are written down not verbalized."

Lesley Kadlec, the director of health information management practice excellence at American Health Information Management Association, also pointed out that patient portals simplify and automate these processes, which often take up valuable administrative work hours.

Some of these processes, according to Kadlec, include setting up appointments, requesting prescription refills, having questions answered and providing billing or other account information.

"The application has the potential to significantly increase productivity."

For these reasons, Patient Portal has a variety of other financial benefits. By combining the advantages of reducing workloads, improving collection and reducing staff workloads with more engaged patients, the application has the potential to significantly increase productivity and, in turn, financial efficiency.

The Security Concerns
Though it's introduced convenience and improved care for many, there are security concerns when it comes to Patient Portal. Sensitive health information is password-protected, but since this technology is still relatively new to providers, there are inconsistencies or uncertainties with applying HIPAA regulations.

Ultimately, as long as providers encourage strong password creation and encrypt data, security lies in patients' hands. There are inherent risks to putting this information in online databases, but these issues don't necessarily need to sway providers away from using these applications.

In fact, security concerns don't impact a patient's interest in the portals as much as sheer unawareness, according to the survey by Xerox. The results showed that 35 percent didn't know that portals were even available, while 31 percent reported that their physicians never spoke to them about the application.

For more information and resources on how to improve your financial efficiency, contact Professional Medical Services today.