4 (more) things I want my patient portal to do

For yesterday's issue of FierceHealthIT, I wrote that I'm a little bored--even frustrated--with the limited features of my provider's patient portal. Online appointment scheduling and access to test results once seemed innovative. Now they're mundane. So I created a list of five things I wish my patient portal would do, such as reminding me to schedule an annual physical and to follow up on action items after a visit to the doctor.   

But no list of demands for innovation would be complete without talking about mobile integration, right? So here are four more things I want my patient portal to do:

1. Provide mobile access: It never even occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to access the portal on my phone or my Kindle Fire--until I tried and received an error message.

I have never run into this problem with any other site, even those that are not optimized for mobile. I can buy shoes on Zappos and books on Amazon with a credit card that, by the way, is on file. I can check my checking account balance. I can organize my Netflix queue. So why is my patient portal out of bounds?

2. Offer apps: I have an app that keeps track of my spending, an app that reminds me when a bill is due … and, of course, a bevy of health and wellness apps that I sometimes even use. I use mobile apps not just for entertainment, but also to organize many aspects of my life. So why can't I have one that shows me upcoming doctor's appointments or a list of my medications?

2. Send text messages: And if I can't actually navigate to the patient portal on my phone's browser or get at the information via an app, at least give me the option to get a text message when there is a new message or alert on my portal.

I get text alerts when I have a credit card payment due and when UPS is about to deliver a package. My pharmacy sends an automated text message when a prescription is due for a refill or ready for pick-up. My dentist sends text messages to confirm appointments--doing so is as simple as composing a one-word response and hitting the send button.

And although my portal does have an option for email notifications, they don't always come through. If information is time-sensitive, such as an appointment reminder, I'm likely to see a text first.

3. Enable easy bill pay: I think I owe at least one of my doctors some money. And if I ever find the time to go through the reams of inscrutable and duplicative paper bills and insurance claim summaries, I might even pay them.

Here's another area where other industries have figured out mobile integration. My bank has a mobile app that lets me check my balances and transfer funds, for example. And I can easily pay credit card bills on mobile-optimized sites. PayPal, Amazon and other online commerce sites have express pay features accessible from mobile devices.

I know I haven't acknowledged here that health data is sensitive and governed by privacy rules. But honestly, if PayPal can figure it out, why can't healthcare?

Meanwhile, I'm sure there are privacy advocates or health IT experts out there who will tell me my demands are unrealistic. What do you think? Will these features be coming to patient portals anytime soon? - Gienna (@Gienna)

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