Healthcare consumers range from tech-savvy millennials accustomed to quick click-throughs to straight answers — to patients with little confidence or competence in computing tools. In either case, just three words can summarize the potential value-added of patient portals to consumers: ease of communications, fast solutions and efficient chronic disease management — but only if the portals are actually integrated into patients’ lives. Similarly, healthcare providers can achieve at least three big benefits from patients’ portal-usage: greater efficiencies, cost-savings and improved health outcomes — again, only if patients use their portals. But with only 20% of patients regularly relying on portals, many benefits have been unattainable. Why are most portals realizing so little of their promise?
This is the first in a two-part series on how to make the most of patient portals to improve patient engagement, and simultaneously improve care management and financial outcomes. Thanks to the PolitDoc Team for their permission to publish excerpts from their recent post.
The implementation of Meaningful Use sent providers scrambling to implement patient portals to provide patients access to their health information — AND to reap the program’s financial incentives. Unfortunately, many providers set up portals only as a compliance measure, without considering how patients and overall healthcare could benefit from them. By not applying thoughtful patient-oriented design and functionality, these providers are missing a significant opportunity to enhance patients’ experience and to improve both clinical and financial outcomes. And so only about 20 percent of patients actually use portals, Mary Pratt writes in Medical Economics, and lack of vision, poor design and insufficient functionality are big reasons. Why must this change?
The new 21st Century Cures Act is about to change healthcare IT, and most of the industry never saw it coming. Passed easily on Wednesday by the U.S. House, the bill is expected to sail through the Senate next week. It is supported by President Obama, who undoubtedly will sign it. Much of the bill focuses on significant FDA regulatory changes, support of mental and substance abuse-related healthcare, and funding for programs such as Vice President Biden’s Precision Medicine Initiative, the Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, cancer research and regenerative stem cell-based medicine. It also includes mandates to improve healthcare IT — most notably, in relation to nation wide interoperability and information blocking. Suddenly, those “Interoperability Pledges” that EHR vendors signed earlier this year will not be toothless expressions of good will.
Many EHR components were developed as early as 30 years ago, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the federal Meaningful Use incentive program precipitated wide-spread implementation of robust EHRs across healthcare. If the EHRs themselves are young, interoperability is still in its infancy. A large majority of acute care hospitals and other providers now have an HHS-certified EHR, providing the needed critical mass to make interoperability even possible. But many barriers remain, not the least of which is a lack of standardized patient identification. Many industry leaders agree that achieving interoperability is one reason why it is time to move to a national patient identifier — but not the only reason.
As we discussed last week, CMS new proposed rules to amend Meaningful Use will ease some of the requirements for meeting Meaningful Use stage 2 in 2016. Significant changes were also proposed to the stage 3 requirements for 2017-2018, several of which reduce participation thresholds that have been widely controversial. Many providers are likely to welcome these proposed modifications, which we have summarized as follows:
Last week, CMS released a new set of proposed rules to modify Meaningful Use. As most of you will not relish putting in hours of midnight oil to review this 764-page document, following is our contribution to the cause: a hopefully readable and worthwhile summary. The proposed rule is important: it alters both MU Stage 2 and Stage 3 requirements, and includes changes to several programs, including the Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment and Ambulatory Surgical Center Payment Systems, Quality Reporting Programs, and the Value Based Purchasing Program.
Read on and enjoy!
Two thirds of physicians say patients should not have access to their entire patient record, according to a recent Accenture study. Hold on — hasn’t HIPAA required the opposite of healthcare providers for many years? Can’t I order up an electronic copy of my record and get it? Yes, on both counts. But undertaking the painful process of calling … explaining our request … faxing a signed form …. then paying a fee … and eventually receiving a full electronic record is one thing. How many of us have done that? Not me and probably not you. Instead, what if I can simply log in to my patient portal and conveniently find my record there? Yes, I would do that if I could. But, that’s where many doctors draw the line, and here’s why.
Achieving it is a predominant theme in healthcare today, and a priority agenda item ever since Meaningful Use (MU) incentives took over the industry in 2009. To clarify (from HIMSS), the definition of interoperability is “the ability of different information technology systems and software applications to communicate, exchange data, and use the information that has been exchanged.”
Interoperability sure sounds like the next step in Meaningful Use, achieving the ability to broadly aggregate and analyze health data and manage our population’s health, right? Yet, the industry seems to be at an impasse. What is holding it up?
Since hospitals won’t need to implement the 2015 Edition technology required in the Final Rule for MU Stage 3 until 2017, it would be easy to put planning on the back burner for a while. Especially given that Stage 3 will be optional in 2017 — not mandatory until 2018. Strategically, however, this would be a mistake. In addition, there still remains much to do regarding the final Stage 2 rules.
Anyone who has been following healthcare news knows that Meaningful Use Stage 2 modifications and final Stage 3 rules were published on October 6. According to CMS, the 752-page final rules were designed to simplify requirements and add flexibilities to help providers make health information available when and where it matters most.
While there has been little industry reaction to the Stage 2 portion of the rules, the Stage 3 details have become a political hot potato, with loud calls from every direction to eliminate, delay, or follow through on the rule as planned. Even CMS has entered the fray, by opening up a 60 day comment period on the final Stage 3 rules.
Here’s what the new Meaningful Use war of words is all about: