Technology has evolved over the years and now, many aspects of our lives have been digitised. The healthcare industry especially is one that adopted this trend once the pandemic hit. As most people are unable to see their doctors, as usual, they have since relied on digital technology to obtain medical attention and advice. For many years, digital technology has been driving transformations in inpatient care, but there is no doubt that Covid-19 has catalysed a significant increase in this adoption. Read how AI-driven healthcare data management impacts the future of healthcare to know more.

To be sure, the rise in phone and video calls that have replaced in-person consultations during the pandemic has gotten a lot of attention. Virtual consultation platforms have proven to be extremely successful and popular, even among older generations. At the same time, electronic patient portals haven’t been keeping pace with the times, and they are soon becoming redundant as a need for real-time engagement with data rises. 

Electronic Patient Portal Use Today

The GAO (Government Accountability Office) reported in 2017 that nearly 90% of providers offered access to their respective patient portals. However, less than one-third of patients used theirs. Later, further reports showed that only 52% of patients were offered online access to their records, and only 28% used it. The top reasons for people using their portals were to get lab results (85%), refill a prescription or make an appointment (62%), and message their provider (48%). But they never returned to the portal again. 

According to some studies, about 8% of internet users, or approximately 93 million Americans, have conducted online searches for health-related topics. Why aren’t more consumers seeking their own health information or using portals to participate in their own healthcare? The following information could help answer this question. 

Cons of Using Electronic Patient Portals 

Patient portals, generally speaking, are health IT interfaces on which patients can view their own protected health information (PHI). Although this can be viewed as a good thing because patients do have the right to see their own health data, it also opens doors for security concerns. A patient portal could be yet another way for a potential hacker or healthcare data thief to gain access to a patient’s data, potentially leaving that patient vulnerable to identity theft. The possibility of data breaches increases, therefore you will need to work with a vendor who offers robust, secure EHR software. This is how these concerns can be kept to a minimum with appropriate safeguards. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently clarified HIPAA regulations regarding patient access to health information, making clearer the conditions under which patients may access their health information and the HIPAA protections that information has. The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) also states that patient portals often have several technical safeguards to protect from healthcare data security issues

Additionally, it was noted that when patients received their medical test results online, many of them found the process to be very convenient. However, a large number of people complained about the lack of interpretation of their results, which a healthcare provider would usually provide. This led them to be scared and anxious about their diagnosis for several days until they eventually had to get in touch with their doctors in person or over the phone, making these portals redundant. Among these, another disadvantage of using patient portals is the most basic problem-  some patients may lack computer experience, preventing them from getting the most out of their portal.

Improving Patient Experience 

If the days of a physician’s call or a face-to-face meeting to discuss test results are over, the portal that replaces them must not be less informative or sensitive to patients’ needs. Patients’ rights to understand cannot be replaced by quick access. Even if a test result is not clearly negative, presenting an uninterpreted report through a portal can be painful for patients and certainly ineffective. According to a recent study, nearly two-thirds of 95 patients who received test results via a portal received no explanation for the results. Nearly half of those polled conducted online searches or contacted their doctors.

Of course, improving the patient experience is at the heart of all care coordination efforts. When providers fail to communicate and data is not shared promptly, the patient suffers the most. They are not the consumer-minded individuals who are eager to “take charge of their own care,” as we frequently hear in the media. Many people rely on care coordinators to be their advocates, inform family members, and share new medications, diagnoses, and preferences with the facility to which they are transitioning. 

At Acuma Health, we ensure HIPAA compliance and our patient engagement app provides timely interventions and lower cost of care, better formulary management system, which leads to higher member satisfaction and retention. It is our goal to provide our patients with real-time engagement of both their care and data. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more insightful information and updates.