A long time reader, first time e-mailer recently emailed me some really interesting questions and comments about meaningful use. One thing that they pointed out in that email is the issue of multiple patient portal logins. It was a good point that I think is worth discussing.
When you look at the market for patient portals, you quickly realize that at least in the current environment we’re not going to get close to having one patient portal for all the doctors. Think about an elderly patient that goes to 5 different doctors. This would likely mean that this one patient will have 5 different patient portal logins. That’s a lot of logins just to manage your healthcare. Not to mention, you have to learn 5 different portals. Some you can schedule an appointment online. Some you can pay online. Others you can get refills. Others you can’t. Yep, it’s going to get really confusing really fast.
I’m sure many reading this are thinking, we’re already juggling multiple logins in our life so why does it matter if we have a few more. While annoying, I actually agree with this statement for the younger generation. I probably have a few hundred logins that I use regularly (I’m probably at the high end) and I’m able to manage without too much trouble. In fact, lately I’ve learned how to reset my password quickly on those that I’ve forgotten and/or don’t use regularly. It’s rarely been an issue for me.
However, remember that many of those that are patients aren’t part of this younger, tech savvy generation. I think about my mom and the fear she has of trying something new on the computer. If she’s never done it before, she’s literally afraid to screw something up. As much as we try to convince her otherwise, you can sense the fear and trepidation she has when she’s never used a website before. I should also add, that my mother isn’t even that old. I think you can see the challenge that these patient portals are going to face with the not so tech savvy patient population (which is the majority of the patient population).
I think most of us agree that the meaningful use stage 2 measure that requires patients to interact with the patient portal is going to be taken out or modified. Everyone I’ve talked to agrees that it would be a huge mistake for ONC to hinge meaningful use dollars on something the physician doesn’t control: patient actions. I expect and hope that it will be modified appropriately.
With that said, I still think there will be a push by ONC towards patient portals. The idea of one login per doctor has me a little concerned. I wonder if more patient portals shouldn’t start more fully embracing Facebook logins or other unified logins like OpenID for their portals. Although, I’m sure many of the patients don’t have Facebook logins either so that won’t solve all the problems.
Am I overstating the challenge? Is there a solution out there? Am I wrong about their being so many portals that patients will have to log into? I’d love to hear your thoughts.