WASHINGTON, D.C.—A recent survey of patients found that three-quarters of them would use a secure electronic portal to access their medical information if it were made available to them. That’s a big number.
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But even more striking is this: Almost half of those patients—47%—would actually consider switching doctors to one that provides a portal, according to a 2011 survey conducted by Decipher Research for Intuit Health.
Of all the reasons to start offering a patient portal, that might be one of the most compelling ones, experts said here at the at the recent 2012 ACR/ARHP Annual Meeting, held November 9–14. They made their comments in a session titled, “Innovations for the Office,” that focused on the emergence of the portals, both as a helpful feature in medical offices and as a federal requirement.
Fifty-three percent of Generation X respondents said they would consider switching for a portal, and 59% of Generation Y respondents said they would, compared to 29% of Baby Boomers.
“The younger ones, they’ll jump, so there’s absolutely good reason to be putting in personal health records,” said Larry Garber, MD, an internist and medical director for informatics at Reliant Medical Group in Worcester, Mass. “They improve the quality of care, the safety of care, the efficiency of care, they make my staff more efficient, they make me more efficient. My patients love it. The government’s making you do it. So what are you waiting for?”
Portals and Meaningful Use
Robert Warren, MD, PhD, MPH, chief medical information officer at the Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, said laws and regulations are driving the engagement of patients in their own healthcare through electronic means. Incentives and penalties include the “meaningful use” of electronic health records, value-based purchasing, accountable care organizations, “medical home” programs, and payments based on outcomes and patient experience.
In Stage 1 of the Meaningful Use program, to become a “meaningful user,” health professionals and hospitals have to give patients electronic copies of their health information upon request within three business days. In Stage 2, they have to provide patients with the ability to view online, download, and transmit their health information within four business days of the information being available to the health professional; provide patients with clinical summaries for each office visit; and demonstrate the use of secure electronic messaging to communicate with patients.
To push the issue, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services plans to publish a list of “meaningful users.”