With patient portals, doctors win too
Dr. Jeffrey Singer, a surgeon in Arizona, recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that he blames electronic health records (EHRs) for damaging his connection with patients. It’s an awful feeling for any physician. We all wish for longer appointments, fewer charts, and more time spent looking patients squarely in the eyes, rather than into our keyboards. In more than a small way I rue the end of the era in which my father, also a pediatrician, was lucky to practice: one where care was personal, immediate, and – sometimes, even – delivered in the home. I’m not a healthcare IT apologist. But for all of healthcare IT’s warranted criticisms, there is still so much to admire. Dr. Singer should know that despite his particular system’s shortcomings, good technology is synonymous with connection. I suggest he try a patient portal on for size.
Admittedly, patient portals are the unloved stepchild of many healthcare IT adopters. The market has been slow to adopt portals; as a result, their functionality is less developed than EHRs and practice management services. Aside from a cursory measure in Meaningful Use Stage 2, patient portals aren’t intrinsic to practices’ workflows in the way that submitting claims, documenting visits, charting and ordering labs are with other applications. It’s no surprise, then, that portals’ reach and popularity are lacking.