Patient portals, please don’t disappoint me again

May 25, 2017
Janette Wider,

During the interviews for the C-Suite Innovator feature on page 6 in this issue, I spoke to Lynne Gordon Thomas, CEO of AHIMA. We had a discussion about patient portals, which we also featured this month. I mentioned to her that I had a negative experience with one.

About a year ago, I was diagnosed with a pretty serious medical problem and wanted to take control of my own care, starting by accessing my medical records and supposedly being able to interact with the physician through the portal. When I went to sign up, I was asked a series of questions that didn’t apply to me or who I was at all and got rejected from the portal—for not being Janette Wider. But I am Janette Wider, so I attempted to email the help address provided on the page that rejected me. I did this, got no response, tried emailing again, and was told I would have to call to set up the service.

Well, by this time I had mostly lost interest because the questions I had for my doctor were already answered via phone. I never pursued it further and just ended up calling the office anytime I had a concern or question. The whole experience of it not being seamless really turned me off. Lynne told me that technology is developing to make these interactions smoother, especially for those of my generation that will lose interest as I did if something doesn’t operate correctly. I eventually got my records in the mail, but felt like they were being held hostage for a while.

Kim Labow, CEO of Medfusion, wrote in her article this month (page 12), “One way to build a strong foundation of patient engagement is through a user-friendly, effective, online presence. And the cornerstone of that strong foundation is a modern, intuitive patient portal.”

I completely agree with her, especially about the user-friendly aspect. I think back to all the websites I’ve been on or apps that I’ve used that don’t have user-friendly interfaces. It makes me not want to use them, so I eventually stop, no matter how helpful the information they can potentially give me is. I’d like a patient portal that I’m using to be held to a higher standard, where everything functions properly and doesn’t give confusing instructions.

Perry Price, CEO, President, and Co-founder of Revation Systems, also weighed in on patient portals on page 10. He wrote, “The security of patient portals is perhaps one of the greatest challenges. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, over 16 million healthcare records were compromised in 2016. Although this is a significant drop from 2015, which posted an all-time high of 113 million accessed records, the number of data breaches is one of the main arguments against the implementation of patient portals for the remaining providers not currently offering them.”

My next thought has to do with just that. What about my security when I am using a patient portal? Since healthcare breaches are so high, isn’t involving a portal just asking for trouble? I’m not sure I want to provide my social security number and other personal information to something that may or may not be secure. I’m sure no one is interested in my medical condition; what they would be interested in is stealing my identity. We have to provide so much information when we go to a doctor that adding in another avenue for it get stolen is a risk that I’m not sure I’m willing to take until the breaches slow down. But, I remain hopeful. I want to be better informed about my personal healthcare and feel like the advancements with patient portals will do just that—it’s just a matter of time.

Thanks for reading. I welcome your feedback at [email protected].

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