Five key features to look for in an EHR patient portal

Patient engagement factors heavily in the future of healthcare services, from both the perspective of Meaningful Use regulations and in the context of using an EHR to provide more cost efficient services and improve the quality of care. Research reported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows that when patients are not engaged in their care, practices waste resources due to repetitive patient education efforts, increased diagnostic tests, and a greater need for referrals. Furthermore, the research shows increases in patient engagement have been linked improved patient outcomes across a number of metrics and have been shown to reduce the rate of preventable readmissions.

The foundation of a solid patient engagement program rests on an effective patient portal that can allow patients to engage their providers and vice versa. An EHR patient portal provides an online platform patients can access their records, receive information from their provider regarding their care and benefits, allow for an electronic medium for among many other features depending on the sophistication of the portal. When searching for a startup or replacement patient portal what features should be present for a practice to leverage a portal to increase patient engagement?

1. Easy to follow user interface

Although this is probably more aptly described as a set of features or characteristics of an EHR patient portal, patients should not have to struggle to access and navigate the portal. The best test for accessibility is to consider the least tech savvy person you know and consider whether they would experience difficulty using the portal. If so, it may be appropriate to find one that users will find less daunting.

Use this guide to 40 key EHR features to figure out how to meet your key requirements

2. Messaging and communication

Back and forth communication between patients and providers is key to patient education and for handling problems related to confusion regarding care beyond the office. An EHR patient portal should offer an easy to use messaging system that can allow communication directly to and from parties involved in patient care.  

3. Registration

Workflow at the front end of a practice can suffer when patients are confronted with a cumbersome registration process. Allowing patients to register online can reduce wait times and allow less workload on front desk staff.  

4. Scheduling

Missed appointments can be detrimental to revenue flows and the combined tasks of rescheduling and scheduling new intakes can disrupt workflow. A portal that allows patients to manage appointments and send appointment reminders can ensure that intake staff is not overburdened by processing appointment scheduling and registration simultaneously and can reduce missed appointments.

5. Enhanced security

Your patient portal should exceed Meaningful Use requirements at a minimum. To ensure data privacy information communicated via a patient portal should be encrypted which exceed HIPAA requirements and provides further protection against accidentally misdirected or hacked personal health information from being read by the wrong party. Further, a portal should have adequate password protection that requires the user password to be updated periodically and automatically logs the user out after a period of inactivity or blocks a user after a set number of incorrect password entries.

An EHR patient portal with the right set of features can provide the basis for a strong patient engagement campaign by enhancing communication, improving patient communications and most importantly, improve patient outcomes.

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Jeff Green

About the author…

Jeff Green, MPH, JD works as a freelance writer and consultant in the Healthcare information Technology Space.

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Jeff Green