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May 2017

Editor's Note: Enter the Portal
By Lee DeOrio
For The Record
Vol. 29 No. 5 P. 3

I'm not a betting man, but I'm willing to wager that most For The Record readers have signed up for access to their provider's patient portal, should one be available. It would be counterintuitive for an HIM professional whose passion is gathering and maintaining accurate data to not want access to their health information. In fact, judging by the results of CDW Healthcare's 2017 Patient Engagement Perspectives Study, patients in general are enamored with patient portals.

For example, according to the study, 98% of patients feel comfortable communicating with providers via a portal and 62% are using the technology more today than two years ago. If anyone cared to ask, I myself would side with the majority on each of those queries. Only recently have the providers in my network begun to offer and promote use of an online portal.

Naturally, I jumped at the chance and found the service to be fascinating, educational, and informative. I appreciate the ability to view lab results and exchange e-mails with physicians. Some providers also offer cool graphs that plot data over time. As a result, I feel more connected to the process, a thought shared by respondents to the CDW Healthcare study, of which 78% said access to patient portals have helped them take a more active role in their health care.

Interestingly, physician documentation has been an eye-opener in some instances. Some typical reactions: "That's a possible diagnosis?," "I don't recall saying that," and "What does that mean?"

What's not to like? In my case, it seemed details I deemed worthy of inclusion were not available. Perhaps most frustrating was the lack of, shall I say it, interoperability. All the providers were in the same network but each required a separate registration and featured a different format. One provider allowed me to complete my history online, while another mailed me forms to fill out. To share data between providers required printing information that I thought would be of interest. Do I print everything or only what I deemed pertinent?

And why can't referrals be included in the portal? Instead, I had to try to recall appointments from months ago to remember whether a prescription was necessary. I still found myself making too many phone calls.

In the long run, it's been advantageous having my health information online. There have been several instances where I've accessed a portal to reaffirm the results of an encounter or to gather data for an upcoming visit. If a few more kinks can be wrinkled out, I'll become an even greater advocate.