Designing a more user-friendly patient portal

With an increased emphasis on patient access to their own health data, electronic health system vendors are offering patient portals to their offerings, according to an article published by the Healthcare Billing Management Association (HBMA).

Patient portals play an important role for electronic health records, according to the article. They enable providers and patients to communicate with each other and help providers meet Meaningful Use requirements.

They can also increase a provider's efficiency. "Patient portals can collect patient family/social history and even history of present illness as well as monitor patient wellness on a periodic basis," according to the article. "Thereby, practices save time documenting patient conditions and history."

But blogger David Chase, CEO of software maker Avedon, points out that EHR vendors, accustomed to designing sophisticated systems for medical professionals, may not be well-equipped to design consumer-friendly patient portals. He also noted that vendors are currently focused mainly on Meaningful Use, so may be giving portal design short shrift.

Quoting pediatrician Wendy Swanson, Chase notes that if vendors are going to stay in the patient portal development business, they should consider making these changes:

  • Recognize the importance of the patient as a key member of the care team, not just a recipient of information
  • Offer forms and workflows that are easy to use and to customize
  • Ensure that the portal is affordable for providers
  • Make sure that the patient data is portable so that providers can share it with other providers
  • Provide system upgrades to keep the portal up-to-date  

 To learn more:
- read the HBMA article
- read the blog post