Integrating mHealth into the patient portal can enhance collaboration between the patient and the care provider and improve care management and coordination.
Consumers who use mHealth to access their medical data through patient portals are more likely to stay in touch with their primary care providers and less likely to visit the hospital.
That’s the gist of the study conducted by Kaiser Permanente researchers and recently published in the journal PLOS One. The study, using data compiled in 2006-07, found that patients who were able to access their data through the electronic health record and manage their care at home increased their outpatient appointments and reduced ER visits and hospitalizations.
“Access to a patient portal can increase engagement in outpatient visits, potentially addressing unmet clinical needs, and reduce downstream health events that lead to emergency and hospital care, particularly among patients with multiple complex conditions,” the researchers concluded.
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The study found that access to connected health resources not only reduced those costly medical interventions, but also improved outcomes. Patients who stayed in touch with their PCPs improved their care management and overall health and wellness.
They key to that success, however, lies in a well-designed patient portal – once that can be accessed by the patient on the device of his or her choosing and whenever and wherever needed.
mHealthIntelligence recently spoke to Craig Cooper, a product manager with AdvancedMD, to learn how to lay the groundwork for a good mHealth-enabled patient portal.
Q. What are the top requirements of an mHealth-enabled patient portal?
A. “Here are some of the top requirements patients look for in an mHealth-enabled portal:
Secure messaging with their provider – Patients are used to communicating via text and e-mail, but these methods are not secure and can present a medical office with a HIPAA nightmare. Using the security of an mHealth-enabled portal can give patients the ability to communicate with their provider in a safe, HIPAA-compliant way right from the convenience of their mobile device.
Online scheduling capability – Patients are busy and don’t always have opportunities during normal business hours to call and schedule their appointments. Providing scheduling via an mHealth-enabled portal allows patients to schedule their appointments when it’s convenient for them on their phone or tablet. This ability can also drive new patients into your practice.
Mobile access to lab results – Providers and medical staff can have difficulties reaching patients on the phone during normal business hours. An mHealth-enabled portal that provides access to the patient’s lab results can allow the patient to view and digest results along with comments from the provider. Any questions or concerns can then be addressed by the patient calling or messaging the medical staff from the portal on their mobile device.
Medication refill requests – Medication adherence is a top concern that providers have for their patients. An mHealth-enabled portal that allows a patient to request refills can help keep them in compliance. Providing this ability can help patients who are not able or willing to call into the office to still request their refills.
Patient education – Patients are becoming more and more environmentally conscious, so providing educational materials in paper form can be disconcerting – not to mention adding the cost to the office of printing them. An mHealth-enabled portal that provides access to educational materials for patients from their phone can solve both these problems.”
Q. What advantages do mHealth devices like the smartphone have for the healthcare provider looking to improve his or her side of the patient portal?
A. “Mobile access to a patient portal allows healthcare providers to respond to patients whether at the office or away in a HIPAA-compliant, safe way. Pairing portal access with mobile access to a patient’s clinical data can be powerful to facilitate informed, timely communications between healthcare providers and their patients. For example, if a patient requests a critical prescription refill through the patient portal after hours, the provider with an mHealth-enabled EMR or app can respond to the request with all the necessary clinical decision support in the palm of their hand, wherever they are.”
Q. What advantages do these devices have for patients looking to access that portal?
A. “Healthcare providers recognize that engaging patients produces the best outcomes. This engagement starts before the visit and lasts long after. mHealth-enabled portal access can facilitate this engagement. Last year, more than half of website traffic was generated from mobile phones. It stands to reason that healthcare consumers are more likely to access patient portals from their mobile device than from a traditional desktop web browser. This makes it critical for practices to provide a mobile-enabled portal for their patients.
Providers can also assign follow-up materials through the portal, allowing the patient to access those resources after the visit. Even when patients are on vacation, they always have their mobile devices, and can access critical health information from the portal. They can also share information with medical staff should they break a leg while skiing or get sick away from home. They could also access telehealth services and mobile payment options from the portal.”
Q. How can – or should – an mHealth-enabled portal differ from the web-based version?
A. “Patient portals should be responsive to the user’s device, whether it be a smartphone, tablet or computer. While the web-based version of the portal can take advantage of larger layouts and smaller click targets, a portal accessed from a smaller device (i.e. mobile phone) needs to adapt to a simpler, cleaner layout with larger touch targets for tapping.”
Q. What common mistakes are made when considering mHealth in portal design?
A. “There are several design flaws commonly found in mHealth portals. They include lack of space between clickable (touchable) areas, which causes items and links to be too close together and hard to access, especially for people with big fingers. Some designs fail to include high contrast between colors and text, which may make it hard to view on a mobile device. Some companies will have a ‘scaled-down’ version of the portal when accessed from a mobile device, but this can be frustrating to patients who are accustomed to the full portal experience from the desktop. Lastly, not accounting for mobile adaptation at all can cause frustration for patients who have to zoom in and out while scrolling through the portal.”
Q. From an mHealth perspective, what can a provider do to compel/convince more patients to use a portal?
A. “The provider and staff need to be as diligent and enthusiastic as they want their patients to be in using the portal. They should become familiar with the portal’s features, check for messages and respond to patients within the portal, and generally talk about and promote the portal to their patients. It’s hard for patients to engage when the portal isn’t monitored diligently by the office.”
Q. Are there certain functions found in a web portal that don’t translate well to the mobile version?
A. “Documents and images can scale really small in a mobile version, making them difficult to see. Zooming can help, but it can still be difficult given the amount of scrolling needed to see the entire image. Lengthy patient intake forms with too many questions would fall into this category, as an example.”
Q. Are there any new uses or functions that only an mHealth-enabled portal can feature?
A. “There’re several functions specific to mHealth-enabled portals. They include push notifications, or alerts to communicate directly with the patient, as well as the ability to communicate via text as an additional option. Electronic payment option allows patients to receive a text and securely pay on the spot through their phone. As telehealth grows in adoption, integrating these visits into an mHealth-enabled portal can allow patients easy access from their mobile phones when they can’t get to a desktop computer.”
Date: July 07, 2019