7 Portals Help Patient Engagement: These portals help ease the burden
Meaningful Use has put new strains on providers in terms of patient engagement, but these portals help ease the burden, says recent Kaiser Permanente report.
Between Meaningful Use and the concept of accountable care, patient portals went from behind the scenes to front and center in 2012, according to a recent KLAS report. Since this transition, the healthcare industry is seeing more engaged patients. In fact, a recent study by Kaiser Permanente showed that patients who had access to their online records and who may have taken advantage of other features on a patient portal used the healthcare system more than those who opted out of a portal.
As the use of patient portals increases and health information networks look to spur the innovation of patient portals through design challenges, KLAS looked at the leading patient portals already on the market. According to the study, MU requirements have increased the urgency of patient portals, but that hasn’t changed providers’ approach to adopting these systems. KLAS interviewed 104 providers on what portals are being used or considered, and what role they’re playing on the healthcare stage. More than half of those interviewed — 57% — already have a portal in place.
“Most continue to use the portal aligned with their EMR, valuing the opportunity for easier integration,” read the report. “Few [respondents] mentioned functionality as a driver for portal selection. Community hospitals and physician groups faced with the need to integrate disparate EMRs often go with best of breed.”
EMR-based portals are a given for many who implemented these systems. According to the study, 71% of respondents who have a portal chose a product from their EMR vendor, and 68% of those without a portal planned to select one based on their EMR vendor. Portals that are either bundled or integrated with an EMR system not only save providers time and money, they also eliminate the need to invest in a new vendor relationship, learn a new system and build interfaces.
What’s interesting, though, is that few respondents cited functionality in their portal selection criteria. Despite the onslaught on Meaningful Use Stage 2, this trend suggests that either today’s portals have strong functionality or expectations are low, said KLAS. “In either case, current portal users appear satisfied,” the report read. “When asked to assess the strength of their portal in six areas, average ratings ranged from 3.9 to 4.5 on a 1-5 scale.”
Given the satisfaction many respondents have with their system, KLAS took a closer look at the top seven portals powering patient engagement. Click through to see solutions from Epic — whose MyChart system accounted for 42% of respondents using portals in the study — Cerner, McKesson, and more
According to the KLAS report, Epic is a “highly regarded portal product with robust functionality.” The portal is available only to Epic clients for data from Epic EMRs, yet it accounted for 42% of total portal users in the report’s interview sample. In the report, Epic MyChart had the highest percentage of clients sharing clinical data and provider messaging. It was also ranked as easy to use and popular among patients. Some respondents said they want to implement more advanced functionalities into the system, like connectivity with home health devices. Overall, the report concluded Epic holds an advantage in its customer base due to integration benefits and its single-vendor strategy.
Early feedback for Cerner’s patient portal suggests good functionality and integration to Cerner outpatient and inpatient EMRs. Its most-offered features are patient clinical records, patient scheduling, and provider messaging. Cerner’s portal was also most considered for future rollout, according to the report. However, the report showed that more providers are considering Cerner’s portal than are actually using it. While early feedback from Cerner users is positive, the primary driver to Cerner is the single-vendor strategy. One respondent said, “Our strategy has been if Cerner has it, we will use it. If not, we will go elsewhere…I had the money budgeted, and it was more natural to go that way.”
Intuit Health, known for being an EMR-agnostic solution, was rated as having good functionality, especially when it comes to bill payment. Satisfaction, though, was split between very positive and very negative experiences. Some respondents saw negative impact on company support after the Medfusion acquisition, while integration challenges exist for some communities with disparate EMRs. Intuit is typically used by physician groups, who find it user-friendly and appreciate its ability to handle physician referrals. Difficulties with interfaces, though, and slowdown in support have hurt the vendor’s most recent KLAS scores.
According to the report, Jardogs’ FollowMyHealth system is the most-used best-of-breed portal in the study. The vendor is EMR-agnostic; however, most clients are Allscripts sites. Jardogs also claims to be “provider-agnostic form a patient point of view, as the system can function as a PHR and combine data from unrelated providers.” Respondents said the vendor has proactive service and support as well as easy implementations. There are concerns regarding the social networking-based login, though, especially regarding privacy and accessibility for older patients.
Medseek is an EMR-agnostic vendor, and most of the study’s respondents considered it the best-of-breed portal in the study. The vendor has few live sites — in fact, only one respondent surveyed was actually using the Medseek portal — but according to the report, it has garnered significant mindshare. Initial feedback was mixed, with some users having success with the tool and others still working through issues. The most-mentioned concerns among users were long implementations and limited technical support.
NetGen is a default option for many NextGen EMR users due to its native integration. The portal has competitive functionality, but cost remains an issue for some clients who feel nickel-and-dimed. The portal, however, is viewed as innovative by users, and some customers mentioned NextGen as an additional option for gathering patient data. Of those participating in the study, about 7% opted for NextGen’s portal over other prominent portals like Cerner, Allscripts and eClinicalWorks.
RelayHealth is the second most-used vendor and is also considered a best-of-breed vendor according to the study. The portal, RelayAccount, is widely adopted for bill pay and statements, but it doesn’t support clinical activities. Other users opt for RelayHealth’s HIE-based portal for sharing clinical data with patients, and a handful of clients use both solutions. In addition, a large portion of RelayHealth’s portal clients are also clients of RelayHealth’s parent company, McKesson. However, neither of the RelayHealth portal options are tied to McKesson EMRs.