Patient portals showing mixed results


Portals enable patients to view their health records and lab results online, share the information with other providers, and exchange secure messages with their doctor and practice staff. CMS thought portals were sufficiently important to require them for EHRs seeking meaningful use certification, and then include them as part of the Merit-based Incentive Payment System.

Technology slow to catch on

Patients’ reluctance to use portals is documented in a 2017 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report. It found that, as of 2015, only 30 percent of outpatient Medicare beneficiaries were using them, even though 87 percent of Medicare-eligible practices made portals available to their patients.

But the fact that most practices now have portal capability doesn’t mean providers are using the technology to its full capacity, says Michael McCoy, MD, the first chief health information officer at the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. “Most physicians haven’t really embraced using it in a way that shifts workload, which is one of the things online access was meant to do,” he explains. For example, many practices don’t use portal features, such as allowing patients to schedule visits or check-in online, that would save time and streamline practice operations.


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By Jeff Bendix

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