Physical Therapy Patient Portal | Toward Meaningful EMR Use
EMRs have clearly come a long way. Initially, they were about getting patient data into an electronic format. The focus on improving patient care came later when it became clear that EMRs would also serve as a platform to communicate with patients. Enter the patient portal as a secure way for patients to keep in touch with the clinic in addition to routing of appointment reminders and bill payments.
With the increasing impetus of value-based care and quality payment programs like the MIPS, patient engagement has emerged as a top strategy for patient success by making them more accountable for their own health.
A key pillar of the patient engagement program is clearly the patient portal.
Forward on the care journey
Patient portals provide the opportunity to increase patient involvement across the journey: pre-clinic, in-clinic, and post-clinic:
Patients could get started on their care program well before they arrive at the clinic. Some of the steps from the patients perspective would include:
- Providing demographic and family information that goes into the patient record.
- Completing clinical questionnaires with functional scales and outcome tests that get imported into the eval.
- Filling out custom PDF forms like consent forms and insurance information.
- Closing out the registration process and accessing their dashboard from the portal.
- Requesting appointments and getting confirmed on the calendar.
- Receiving text and email notifications from the clinic that are routed via the portal.
The portal would continue to contribute during the care session:
- Therapists could transfer over completed clinical questionnaires into EMR eval forms.
- They could revise responses as necessary and update eval records in the EMR.
Patients are able to stay connected with the clinic during and after their program of care:
- They could pay their share of financial responsibility via the portal through online bill pay.
- Review their appointment and financial history and dive into specific transactions.
- Increase understanding and obtain feedback on their end-to-end patient journey.
But success doesn’t come easy
Patient portals could add significant value to the care process:
- Increased collaboration between therapists and patients resulting in greater involvement in the plan of care.
- Patients are able to build a higher level of trust in clinicians and take control of their care journey with more confidence.
- Efficiency gets a boost by reducing the need for patients to call in for questions related to their care program.
- With 24×7 access to their clinical history and questions, patients can track their progress over time.
- Portals help retain patients in the care program and get them back sooner through the increased engagement.
But successful implementation of portals is not a given. Some of the considerations would include:
- Data integration with the EMR with interoperability of data to enable it to come through.
- Adapting the care process to include the patient portal with additional responsibilities for staff.
- Enabling ease of use for patients from different demographic and family backgrounds.
- Establishing a successful communication channel between patients and therapists.
- Ensuring privacy and security of patient information on the portal and during the data transfer.
- Continued management support for a successful clinic implementation and roll out.
How successful has your patient portal been?
End of the day, patient portals would be a part of the patient engagement stack that creates seamless, holistic experiences for users. Not as a solo player but a team player albeit a critical member of the team. The push for EMR meaningful use continues with patient portals pulling their weight.