Patient Portals — Cloud-based Entry Points to Comprehensive Patient Health Data — Will Become as Common as Email
Universal health coverage isn’t the only goal of the Affordable Care Act. The ACA also aims to bring better information technology into the healthcare marketplace. Technology is famous for the efficiency (and ease) it lends communications, but improvements in healthcare information delivery systems promise to save not just money, but lives. 50 percent of US hospitals and 40 percent of US physicians already use some type of patient portal–Web-based apps that allow patients to electronically view, download, and transit electronic copies of their medical records over a lifetime. Frost & Sullivan analysts predict the patient portal market will more than triple in five years, from $279.8M in 2012 to $898.4M in 2017.
Obvious advantages of patient portal use include putting relevant, timely information at a physician’s fingertips, saving doctors and hospitals time. That time translates into money. The ACA envisions the increased efficiency created by ubiquitous patient portal technology will help bring down the overall cost of healthcare–as well as “positively affect patient care.” There are fiscal incentives for medical professionals to use certified patient portals, aka electronic health record systems (EHRs). A physician can be denied incentives if he/she writes fewer than 100 medication, radiology, or laboratory orders during a single reporting period. That’s a lot of data. And like most stored data that offer easy access there follows an uneasy question: Who’s protecting it? Well, although the federal government is providing incentives and cyber security tips (use strong passwords, install anti-virus software, use a firewall), it’s passing the onus of ensuring privacy onto healthcare professionals. Frost & Sullivan Connected Health Principal Analyst Nancy Fabozzi reports new robust functions will soon be added to patient portals–e.g. gaming, avatars for personalized health coaching, e-visits. All of which will make patient portal adoption more attractive for patients, who aren’t incentivized the way physicians are. Ms. Fabozzi has coined Patient Portal 2.0 to describe the new level of features and engagement in the EHR landscape. If increased patient privacy protection is, along with gaming, one of the new features, the sky’s the limit for Patient Portal 2.0.