Category Archives: Patient Portal

Patient Portals: The First Step to Patient Engagement

Engaging your patients in their care process and in the management of records is not only the Meaningful Use incentive program requirement but also is the need of the time. More than ever, patients want to access their health records online and perform some basic tasks connecting with the care provider through internet.

40% patients want to get appointment reminders through the internet, 29% of the surveyed patients want treatment reminders through the web connection, according to a survey report conducted by InsightExpress. The report further details about the services patients find valuable if offered via internet, i.e.

patient-portals-engagement

Source: Cisco customer experience report for health care

Ironically, Patient Portals are offering more than that what health consumers are engaged in now. See complete list of SequelMed Patient Portal features or Read relevant articles on the topic of Patient Portal

According to the statistics retrieved from Health Tracking Survey shows, 41 percent of 1,745 surveyed patients who used internet for reading reviews about a medical provider. It all shows a passive behavior from the patients’ side who are only interested in accessing health information and less engaged in contributing their part. Apprehending the situation, the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) took a number of initiatives, such as, Consumer eHealth Program and Blue Button initiative and outlined a Patient Engagement Framework.

These initiatives aimed at enticing active participation of the patients in the care process. The plan is simple; physicians are expected to share patients’ health records through an integrated EHR system and a Patient Portal. At the basic level, the tasks which the patients and providers should collaborate are: managing appointment schedules provide clinical summaries, reminders for follow-up care and exchanging relevant educational material with patients through online portals. Moreover, patients can view, download and transmit their health records.

The advanced tasking includes: online payments, specialty referral, e-visit consultation and prescription renewal / refills. To achieve this level of patient engagement, an integrated Patient Portal is the first step which would ultimately lead to responsive health consumers and shared decision making.

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EHRs and Patient Engagement

While the US population is a relatively tech-savvy bunch, the question lies in how will providers fare with the new Stage 2 Meaningful Use Core Objective requiring patient engagement and health information exchange?

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CMS has taken the Stage 1 requirement to the next level, placing a heightened emphasis on patient engagement so as to make the patient more of an active participant in their health care. The Stage 2 measure requires that 50% of all unique patients are given the ability to access to their health information within 4 business days of the information being available to the provider. The second part to that measure requires more than 5% to view, download or transmit that data to a third party. Prior to the adjusted proposed rule, the 5% threshold was 10%, however CMS saw fit to decrease the requirement as there was worry that the failure to meet the threshold was too driven by the action required by the patient. The adjusted threshold should now help to make this an achievable goal for providers.

A suggestion to providers if they have not done so already is to implement an online patient portal into their EHR functionality in 2013, before Stage 2 takes effect in 2014. The online portal which is designed to give patients immediate access to their health information plays a key role in the new measure. There is also another patient-centered measure that requires providers to engage in secure two-way messaging with patients through portals which is another reason why the implementation of the patient portal is a fundamental step in meeting the new requirements. Within Stage 1, providing patients their health information was more passive. Stage 2 moves passed that and more or less forces the patients to utilize the patient portal. Just having access to the information via the patient portal is not enough. Now, providers and practice staff must incorporate the use of the patient portal into their practice workflow so as to truly encourage the engagement of the portals use to get patients involved in their care. The role of patient engagement is likely to evolve further with the future stages of Meaningful Use, so the sooner a providers patient population becomes accustomed to using and experiencing the benefits of the patient portal, the better it will be for all parties involved, especially the provider who needs to meet a threshold.

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5 Immediate benefits of a Patient Portal

Patient Portal deployment at a medical practice boosts productivity and efficiency, as well as helping to engage patients in the health care process. It frees up additional time to handle more patient visits and presumably a physician practice can save up to $124 an hour. Calculating it for a year, on average a practice of three physicians can add $135,780 additional revenue per annum by integrating a Patient Portal with the practice management systems. More than that, an online Patient Portal can dramatically bring down the running cost of a medical practice by reducing spending on communication (phone, fax, mail), online payment processing and through virtualization of clinical tasks.

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Besides these long-term estimated savings, using an online Patient Portal integrated with an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system and Practice Management solutions, imparts instant benefits right from the day of deployment.

Here are five immediate benefits of a Patient Portal that it brings to a medical practice.

  1.  View, download and transmit PHRs

Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use incentive program has obligated eligible professionals that they must provide timely online access to the medical information, to more than 50% of patients. In addition, they must ensure that 5% of the patients seen in that period view or download their medical information or transmit it to a third party. An online Patient Portal integrated with an EHR system offers the most secure and flexible mean of transmitting health records which the patients can remotely view, download and share.

  2.  Improves coordination and communication

Effective communication is the lifeblood of an organization. Patient Portal deployment at a medical facility dramatically enhances communication within the facility and with the patients. It brings down communication spending on telephone bills, fax, and mail and replaces them with cheaper web based communication tools. Patients send appointment requests and they are confirmed back through the Patient Portal. Online messaging, reminders, alerts are added features which make communication more effective.

  3.  Practice management virtualization

Patient Portals are not only about filling communication gaps; they have facilitated many of the practice management tasks. For instance, patient referrals and health record sharing becomes as easy as to send an email. Similarly, patient requests for medication refills, authorization and many such queries no more require a clinical visit rather they are managed through the portal. Providers can pass on electronic copies of lab test results and reports to their patients which are accessible through secure portal logins.

  4.  Connected and informed patients

Engaging patients in the care process is the focus of the current health care reforms. Patients are taking ownership of their health records and actively participate in the decision taking process. Patient Portals are instrumental in making all this possible when doctors send clinical summaries of each clinic visit and share informative health education through dedicated Portals.

  5.  Payment updates and follow-ups

Informing patients of their due bills, copay, online bill payment and payment followups are among the unique features of Patient Portals. Physicians update their patients about due medical bills and patients pay the bills using online payment solutions. It is very helpful for an effective revenue cycle management.

Visit SequelMed Patient Portal homepage for a complete list of features and benefits of this advanced health care solution.

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Meaningful Use program has spurred the growth of patient portals

Meaningful Use program requirements are mostly viewed in context with the valuable use of EHRs, although, it has equally prioritized the incumbent use of online patient portals for health care providers.

Here are a few Meaningful Use criteria requirements that have been projected at different stages of the program which necessitate patient portal integration in health care.

  • Use secure electronic messaging to communicate with patients on relevant health information.
  • Provide patients with an electronic copy of their health information (including diagnostic test results, problem list, medication list, medication allergies).
  • Provide patients with an electronic copy of their discharge Instructions at the time of discharge.
  • The eligible professional who transitions their patient to another setting of care or provider of care or refers their patient to another provider of care should provide a summary of care records for each transition of care or referral.
  • Eligible professionals must provide more than half their patients with secure electronic access to their health information within 4 business days.
  • At least 5% of patients view, download, or transmit their health information to a third party.
  • Transmit patient data to a portal or to a referring physician within 36 hours of discharge.

[Read also: Meaningful Use of a Patient Portal]

57% of providers are currently using a patient portal solution.

And the number is growing everyday. Although, some of the health care providers have been using patient portal solutions for many years now but stage 2 of the Meaningful Use has really spurred its adoption rate. Today, patient portals are furnished with advanced features and tools, for instance:

The patient portal must bridge the provider-patient communication gaps and should offer communication tools, such as, patient registration, appointment scheduling and online access to health records.

It should offer the provider the capability to authorize prescription renewal and refill. Lab reports and results can be accessed through the portal.

It should maintain the history of patient visits along with the medical records and patient history along with medication detail, immunization schedule and allergy lists.

The portal should be capable of processing reminders and alerts for the patients.

Online payment management is an added feature that, if integrated into the patient portal can streamline the billing process.

An overview of advanced features and benefits of SequelMed Patient Portal would explicitly explain the features and benefits of this health care solution.

Baby Boomers and Patient Portals

As those individuals age 45 and over, endearingly coined “Baby Boomers,” grow older – their aim should be to maintain their health and decrease the incidence and severity of chronic diseases. So, why is it that when I discuss the Meaningful Use measures that correlate to Patient Portal, Provider’s who cater to Baby Boomers say they have a difficult time securing an email address from them in order to set up a Patient Portal account?

It is understandable that this generation may not be the tech savviest of the bunch and are often described as technophobes, but one would think that if your health information is available in an easily accessible online Patient Portal, why would one not take advantage of that tool? Not only does Patient Portals grant patients the ability to monitor their health, it allows them to book/request appointments, request a refill or renew a medication, pay a balance to the practice online, etc. Even if there is some reluctance – Baby Boomers should be experiencing the convenience, efficiency and engagement of Patient Portals offered by their healthcare providers.

Perhaps there is a higher inclination for a patient to gladly give their email address, in turn adopting a Patient Portal account if it is offered by specialists who treat them for chronic conditions? Those patients are more than likely to be hungry for the information that can be accessed through the patient portal. Baby Boomers should know that the future of healthcare is electronic based and yes, while change can be no fun for some – the bandwagon is cruising along a super-charged tech-laden highway. Might as well jump on it in doing so, helping your health care provider meet the meaningful use criteria.

According to the American Hospital Association (AHA), by 2020, Boomers will account for four in 10 office visits to physicians. A growing number of Boomers are getting eligible for Medicare benefits every year, they would hugely impact the health care businesses and would be responsible for a major portion of revenue for the health care providers. On one side, health care providers are required to accommodate growing medical needs of the elderly population and on the other side they are expected to curb the frequency of revisits and readmissions of the patients. In this scenario, the best solution is to exploit the potentials of tele-medicine, cloud based health care solutions and online care coordination tools. Patient Portal is the most promising of the lot, however, the dilemma is how to prepare non-techy elderly patients for its intended use.

Advocating for a robust Patient Portal use to reluctant patients is not an easy task. The first among the wish list should be a die-hard commitment by the front desk staff, convincing patients of regular Patient Portal use for scheduling visits and to get updates on the care plan.

Pediatrician Peter M. Kilbridge, a senior research director with The Advisory Board Company’s Information Technology program suite, provides suggestions in a podcast about how to get patients to try out the portal. He suggests:

  • Front desk staff should inform patients about the portal, providing brochures and sign-in credentials.
  • Encourage to book appointments through the portal
  • Highlight salient features and functions
  • Path to adapt the portal should be made simple
  • Motivate patients to view test results on the portal
  • Engage patients on the portal through updates on community activities
  • Provide health information literature through the portal
  • Encourage patients with chronic diseases to coordinate in the care process through the portal

SequelMed Patient Portal is a perfect fit: it boasts a sleek user friendly design, easier to use interface which provides the perfect way for providers and patients to connect. Learn more about Patient Portal Features.