Multi-provider patient portals get big boost with ONC ruling

February 25, 2013

Is it time for you to dump your traditional patient portal, which draws on records from only a single physician's electronic health record system?

Is it time for doctors to dump their traditional patient portals, which draw on records from only a single physician's electronic health record (EHR) system?

A recent ruling by the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health Information Technology incentivizes health providers to adopt multi-vendor portals by making it easier for doctors to qualify for a key meaningful use measure when they contribute information to a patient's online health record that is shared by multiple providers.

"The ONC is trying to break down the silos that have held back innovation," said Dave Chase, chief executive officer of Avado, which he calls a "multi-provider, EHR-agnostic patient relationship management company."

Determining exactly what the ONC's new ruling about multi-provider portals means for physicians can get a little complicated, but it revolves around one meaningful use measure that has to do with a doctor's patients accessing their health records online. Here's how a physician qualifies for that particular measure: "More than 5% of all unique patients seen by the [provider] during the EHR reporting period view, download or transmit to a third party their health information," according to the ONC.

But that brought up a question that the ONC needed to clarify-and did: If a patient accesses an online health record that multiple providers contribute to, then which provider gets credit toward the meaningful use measure?

Thanks to the ONC's new ruling, that answer (with a qualifier) is now essentially, "They all do."

Why should physicians care? Let's look at a hypothetical scenario.

Let's say I'm a primary care physician and I send my patient to a specialist. After seeing the specialist, the patient then logs into a portal that's shared by me and the specialist. The bonus for me, then, is that I get credit for that patient logging into the portal, even though the patient logged in after visiting another doctor, not me. Had the specialist and I not shared a portal, then obviously I'd get no credit for the patient logging into the specialist's own portal. 

The qualifier is that the physician "must have contributed at least some of the information identified in the Stage 2 final rule to the shared portal," according to the ONC. (For more on Stage 2 measures, see this ONC fact sheet.)

The idea behind the ONC encouraging the use of multi-provider portals is that doing so will boost patient engagement, in theory, by bringing all of a patient's health information into a single record, instead of having it spread out amongst disparate providers. From a patient's perspective, that means the information will be more portable and easier to share, Chase says.

"While it's still common for providers to adopt siloed, tethered patient portals, that would not only be nonpatient centric, but it would put that provider at a competitive disadvantage," Chase says. "I've yet to meet the person who wants seven different user ID and password combos to get into all their providers' siloed patient portals."

To read the ONC's new ruling on multi-provider portals, click here.

 

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