Who Are Patient Portals Really For?

Adam Baker, writing for The Health Care Blog on why patient portals fall short and what replaces the portal:

Today’s portals are one-way chutes, designed to regurgitate the structured data of medical history. But they’d be more powerful if people could use them to provide structured data back to their care team, in a way that complemented the evaluation of their progress. If only it were as natural to supply feedback as it is to book an appointment online! Instantly though, the premise of the portal—a by-now ancient term for a Web site—is undermined.

To become a service for structured follow-up—taking advantage of the time between doctor’s appointments—the portal has to become more than a website people log into. Instead, it could be reimagined as an interface between someone’s health record and their life. It would provide services—distributed across devices and time—that elicit structured feedback about how things are going, or ways to share experience from “real life” that can impact care.

Yes, absolutely. Patients providing structured data about their current health status back to their care team changes the dynamic of care delivery. If preventing adverse health events is the goal, providers need a way to stay connected to their patient populations in the times between in-person encounters. Managing a population in this way looks a lot more like fire prevention than firefighting.

Adam continues:

As it stands, third party startups are stepping in to fill the void, with telemedicine, online consultation, symptom-tracking apps, and so forth—all services that would best feed back into the health record in a meaningful way.

With structured feedback into the health record, there’s an opportunity to facilitate a kind of self-management that hasn’t been possible. In much the same way that lab test values injected into the portal can be contextualized in a patient’s complete history and used in clinical decision-making, this self-reported structured data or from-home records could be integrated into personalized, living evidence-based tools that go far beyond the generic health assessments of today’s portals.

Be sure to read the full article.