Patient Portals: Hiding in Plain Sight

August 20, 2014
83 Views

patient portal usageMany physician offices have patient portals, since they’re a requirement for Meaningful Use Stage 2. But a new survey from Software Advice confirms what we knew intuitively – these portals don’t get much use. Patients don’t know they exist and doctors don’t use them a whole lot. That’s kind of odd considering that portals can be useful and efficient.

patient portal usageMany physician offices have patient portals, since they’re a requirement for Meaningful Use Stage 2. But a new survey from Software Advice confirms what we knew intuitively – these portals don’t get much use. Patients don’t know they exist and doctors don’t use them a whole lot. That’s kind of odd considering that portals can be useful and efficient. They’re good for checking lab results, asking non-urgent clinical questions, renewing prescriptions, managing appointment schedules, patient education and paying bills.

Why then is uptake so low? I have a few ideas:

  • The systems are clunky: frustrating to navigate, often down for maintenance or for no explained reason, and slow.
  • Workflows are awkward. For example a physician may have access but her admin may not.
  • There’s often no value proposition for a physician who wants to use a portal.
  • Messaging is inflexible with no access to attachments web links or other enhancements.
  • Some of the more important communications, like sharing a diagnosis don’t lend themselves to asynchronous communications.
  • Privacy and security remain concerns and the required safeguards create barriers.

Contrast the weak state of portals, which have been available in one form or another for 20 years, with other changes in communication that have been embraced much faster. Think texting, Skype, and mobile commerce, all of which have rocketed to prominence since patient portals were invented. I do think we’ll get there, but it will take a new generation of doctors, patients, software developers and payment models to make it happen.

You can find the original item from Software Advice here.

patient portal / shutterstock

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