Free EMR Newsletter Want to receive the latest news on EMR, Meaningful Use, ARRA and Healthcare IT sent straight to your email? Join thousands of healthcare pros who subscribe to EMR and EHR for FREE!

My First Patient Portal: A Review

Posted on August 2, 2013 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

It was with both excitement and a slight sense of dread that I read through paperwork related to using my doctor’s patient portal. I was excited because I would finally experience what so many in the industry have been discussing, lamenting, fearing, awaiting … take your pick. The dread wasn’t too far behind as I realized I would have to be responsible for yet another set of login information, and a potentially burdensome amount of data entry. (I volunteered a few years ago to beta test a personal health record for parents, but that did not last long as the data entry became too time consuming.)

Excitement won out, of course, because I am intrigued by the connection between portals and engagement. Will logging into the portal make me that much more likely to continue to use it and correspond with my doctor? I also wonder if, after the first initial login and hopefully minimal data entry, using the portal will in fact make my healthcare more convenient than burdensome. Will phone calls be replaced with secure emails? I can only hope.

Flipping through the patient portal pamphlet from my doctor’s office titled “Your Health Care at Your Fingertips,” I noted several features are highlighted:

  • fast and secure access to your health information
  • communicate with your doctor by sending and receiving secure messages
  • request prescriptions and refills
  • update demographic information
  • browse health facts and information
  • view and request appointments
  • view billing statements and balance

Coming soon will be the ability to retrieve test results and view personal health information, which seems a little vague to me as I would assume anything about me in the portal is PHI.

Logging in for the first time was easy. I noticed the “Powered by athenahealth” logo at the bottom, and was immediately presented with an option to receive paperless statements via the portal. The dashboard presented me with my upcoming appointments, and quick links related to updating my profile, changing contact information and signing up for secure text messaging. I went ahead and signed up for text messaging as the primary way in which I receive reminders. For me, it is such a convenient way to get and store quick bits of information.

Digging around further, I realize how valuable the Billing section will be, especially now that I am incurring expenses that will go towards my deductible. It will be nice to have these archived for me in the portal, rather than a mound of paper receipts I continually shuffle through.

I was pleased to see that this particular athenahealth portal supports the Blue Button initiative:


And also supports transmitting my health data to Microsoft Health Vault, which I might try at a later date:


The only data entry I had to do was update my emergency contact information.

Thus far, I’ll give the athenahealth patient portal a positive review. I’ll let you know how my experience with it continues over the next few weeks. I predict that it might peter out because my visits to this particular doctor will, hopefully, end. If only my other doctors also offered a patient portal. But then, perhaps that is where technology like HealthVault comes in handy.

What has your experience with patient portals been like? How about Microsoft HealthVault? Is it worth populating if, like me, you see several doctors that do and don’t offer portals? I’d appreciate any comments you’d like to leave below.

Plenty of EHR Solutions on Hand at HFMA Show

Posted on July 6, 2011 I Written By

As Social Marketing Director at Billian, Jennifer Dennard is responsible for the continuing development and implementation of the company's social media strategies for Billian's HealthDATA and Porter Research. She is a regular contributor to a number of healthcare blogs and currently manages social marketing channels for the Health IT Leadership Summit and Technology Association of Georgia’s Health Society. You can find her on Twitter @JennDennard.

My day job as Social Marketing Director for Billian’s HealthDATA and Porter Research took me last week to the exhibit halls of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) 2011 ANI Healthcare Finance Conference in Orlando. It was my first trip to the annual show, and to its venue, the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center.

Unlike my previous tradeshow experience in Orlando, at the fun yet overwhelming HIMSS, I found the HFMA event to be extremely manageable in terms of schedule, show-floor size and booth scale. Almost everyone I ran into – whether it was at our booth, at someone else’s booth, at lunch or on the shuttle – was very approachable and seemed happy to take a few minutes out of their day to speak with me, even though, as a fellow exhibitor, I wasn’t exactly their target prospect. Perhaps it was my blue exhibitor ribbon that brought out the few bad apples in the bunch – those sales reps that either refused to get off the phone when they saw me approach or those that refused to crack a smile. My only other complaint was that exhibitors were denied entry to the majority of the educational sessions.

The Blues Brothers made an appearance at the HFMA 2011 ANI Healthcare Finance Conference.

As it was my first time being in the thick of the healthcare finance world, I took the opportunity to chat with as many show-floor folks as I could. I learned a lot about how integral healthcare finance and information technology are to each other, and to bringing the overall costs of providing healthcare services down, so that providers can – hopefully – extend these savings on to the patient in the form of more accessible and coordinated care, and better clinical outcomes.

I kept my eyes and ears open for solutions relating to electronic medical/health records, and came across quite a few that piqued my interest. I found I have a soft spot for anything related to patient portals and mobile solutions. Here, in no particular order, are a few snippets of what those exhibiting companies had to offer:

Healthcare Management Systems Inc. (HMS)
– offers ambulatory EHR and practice management services
“HMS is uniquely positioned to provide community hospitals with an EHR in a much shorter timeframe. With ONC-ATCB certification for inpatient EHR, EDIS and Ambulatory EHR, HMS will ensure that you meet the health IT standards mandated by ARRA and reap the financial benefits that follow.”

I’d be lying if I didn’t disclose that half the reason I went to their booth was to grab one of their very cool, green water bottles.

Origin Healthcare Solutions
– offers integrated practice management software and EHR solutions
“Streamlines office redundancies and makes users more efficient.”

Walking into their booth made me realize why exhibitors spend a bit more for that cushy carpet – and I was in flats, mind you.

Patient Point
– offers a technology platform that aggregates and integrates in real-time with health plan data, pharmacy benefit management data, practice management and EMR systems
“Our patient-facing portal and mobile apps enable patients to securely communicate with their care team and report progress of their ongoing conditions. Patients have the choice to opt in for secure messaging via email, phone or text messaging, which enables us to close the loop effectively on patient compliance and care coordination.”

As a social media enthusiast, I wonder if patient portal solutions like these will one day find a way to securely (and privately) integrate with Facebook or Twitter. Heck, even location-based social networks like Foursquare could be used. I’m sure us patients could be incentivized to “check in” early to our appointment.

The White Stone Group
– offers the Trace Communication System
“The only system of its kind that captures any healthcare exchange – voice, fax, or electronic – for fast processing and easy retrieval.”

Based on the Trace literature and its graphics, I kept looking for the phrase EMR to pop up, but it was nowhere to be found. It seems like it could fall into this category, especially as “All communication records are consolidated in one central location for quick and easy retrieval.” If anyone knows different, please enlighten me. The fact that they cite Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, which is right in my backyard, as a case study also piqued my interest. The study relates that “Trace was used to overturn $2 million in denials and prevent an estimated $4 million in denials. Productivity improvements saved 107 staff hours per month and allowed for reallocation of five FTEs.”

* Editor’s Note: Erin McCarty, Director of Marketing at The White Stone Group, Inc., was kind enough to clarify the Trace system’s relationship to the EMR: “Trace is a platform that captures communication (voice, fax & electronic), indexes the records by patient and stores them for web-based retrieval. It is primarily used to capture revenue cycle communication that occurs with payers, patients and physicians. Trace does not replace the EMR, which is documenting the patient’s clinical data. Rather, it complements the EMR by capturing communication that helps hospitals receive accurate reimbursement for care provided. Common uses include recording authorization calls to payers, out-of-pocket discussions with patients, capturing faxed physician orders, visits to payer web sites, etc.”

– offers a certified EHR to rural hospitals
“In addition to our ONC-ATCB 2011/2012 certified EHR software, we also offer clients comprehensive services, support, training and financing to help them receive incentive dollars, and ultimately, provide the high-quality patient care their communities expect.”

I also noticed in their brochure that they offer a white paper on “10 Must-Haves to a Successful EHR Implementation.”


– offers an electronic patient check-in solution
“With patient payments making up $1 out of every $4 of medical practice revenue, it’s no wonder 10,000 clinicians use Phreesia as their electronic patient check-in solution.”

Patient portals and electronic check-ins were popular at the show. Phreesia’s solution stood out to me for its bright orange color. While not directly tied to EMRs, I wonder if these sorts of technologies will become interoperable with them, especially as doctors and payers begin to work more closely together in the name of more coordinated care.”

– offers integrated physician billing, practice management and EHR services

Their white paper on “The HITECH Act and Your Practice: Eight Tips for Successful EHR Adoption” caught my eye. It got me wondering how they were able to whittle it down from Healthland’s 10.

A number of other companies were on hand with EHR solutions, including:
Healthcare Anytime
Sandlot Solutions