Patient Portals

Every day more and more people use the internet to communicate with friends, family, and coworkers. The internet is used for banking, making reservations, reading books, and now they can manage their health care online. Many providers now offer health care portals to their patients. They can email their physician, check lab results, and even make appointments right from the comfort of their home. Portals have the ability to save providers a significant amount of money. According to Health Data Management:

* 63 cents is saved every time they don’t have to mail a lab result * $7 savings for every appointment scheduled online * $17 every time they can handle a billing issue online rather than by phone * Averts 12,000 phone calls a month These types of savings add up very quickly. The saving end up benefitting everyone involved. The provider can use the money to improve health care, the savings, possibly cut costs for the patients, and monetary compensation for the facilities employees (Will Patient Portals Open the Door to Better Care?). Most facilities start slow with only a few functions on the portal.

This helps to keep the startup cost down and to help to keep it simple and user friendly. The portals have many functions and are very valuable to the practice and the patient. Portals help to keep the patient connected with their physician, get them more involved in their health care and to improve the overall patient experience. Portals are available 24/7 for the patients and the staff to utilize it at their convenience. A patient does not have to wait for a call back to make an appointment or get test results. The portals offer services such as:

* Medication refills * Appointment scheduling and changes * Lab work / test results * Pre-registration / New patient registration * Email communication with the physician and other staff members * Online billing payments and statements * Alerts to upcoming tests or appointments * Health education materials * Referral requests * Information sharing with referring providers * Reduced costs * Multiple provider support * HIPPA compliant security Studies have shown that patients with secure and constant access to their health information are more likely to manage their health better with less oversights and complaints.

Portals are HIPPA compliant and they reduce the possibility of human error. Non-urgent issues can be handled on the portal therefore freeing the staff to take care of issues that are more important and the patients in the office (Patient Portal). Portals can be used to market health care products and services for a facility. Reminders can be sent to patients that are due for lab work, tests, and preventive screenings. Patient education materials are available to inform patients about health care technologies, medications or other services available to treat an existing disease or for preventive measures. Patients can also send health information to their providers to examine.

A diabetic patient can send data from their glucose monitors right to the physician’s inbox so they can monitor the readings. Some portals are so sophisticated they can differentiate between a patient whose statistical risk of breast cancer is so low that she should wait until age 60 to get a mammogram and a patient who should start being screened at 40. Advanced portals combine electronic health records, online patient /provider communication and clinical decision support systems (Will Patient Portals Open the Door to Better Care?). Millions to connect and converse with others online use social media and networking with online tools.

Health care facilities can use social media to engage members and potential members by building trust and making large organizations more accessible and approachable. Patients with chronic conditions can manage their disease and make health choices using social media. Networking and social media can help individuals to acquire knowledge they might otherwise not have access. Social media has its advantages and disadvantages where health care systems are concerned.

Absence from social networks that are important to patients might lead to a gap between patients and clinicians. Social networking has taken society by storm. The penetration into society helps people to facilitate talking as well as listening, consuming as well as participating. Six months from the start of Facebook there were 100 million subscribers. Today Facebook has over 500 million users. It took almost 40 years for computers to become mainstream (Social Media and the Health System , 2011).

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