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My First Patient Portal: A Review

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:

portalbb

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

portalMHV

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.

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.

Pay-for-Play Interoperability, Texting in Healthcare, and Health IT Conferences – #HITsm Chat Highlights

Topic One: Is “pay-for-play” interoperability going to derail CommonWell’s goal of building an industry-wide, interoperable framework?

Topic Two: Will texting in health care become a main driver of #patientengagement? Are iOS iMessage texts HIPAA compliant?

Topic Three: Experts claim data breaches are inevitable for health systems. Agree? What can be done NOW to minimize #healthIT security risks?

Topic Four: What’s the next-best #healthIT event/conference you’re attending? Are there other health IT topics that deserve their own event?

April 13, 2013 I Written By

Katie Clark is originally from Colorado and currently lives in Utah with her husband and son. She writes primarily for Smart Phone Health Care, but contributes to several Health Care Scene blogs, including EMR Thoughts, EMR and EHR, and EMR and HIPAA. She enjoys learning about Health IT and mHealth, and finding ways to improve her own health along the way.

Sending PHI Over SMS

I recently was talking with a doctor who told me about a healthcare communications company called YouCall MD. The doctor liked many of the features that YouCall MD provided. He loved that they would answer your Live Calls, transcribe a message to you and send you that message by SMS. Well, he loved all of it except the part that YouCallMD was using insecure SMS messages to send protected health information (PHI).

I wrote about this before in my post called “Texting is Not HIPAA Secure.” I know that many doctors sit on all sides of this. I heard one doctor tell me, “They’re not going to throw us all in jail.” Other doctors won’t use SMS at all because of the HIPAA violations.

While a doctor probably won’t get thrown in jail for sending PHI over SMS, they could get large fines. I think this is an even greater risk when sending PHI over SMS becomes institutionalized through a service like YouCallMD. This isn’t a risk I’d want to take if I were a doctor.

Plus, the thing that baffles me is that there are a lot of secure text message services out there. Using these services would accomplish the same thing for the doctor and YouCall MD and they wouldn’t put a doctor or institution at risk for violating HIPAA. Soon the day will come when doctors can send SMS like messages on their phones in a secure way and they won’t have to worry about it. I just think it’s a big mistake for them to be using their phone’s default SMS.

February 26, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 5000 articles with John having written over 2000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 9.3 million times. John also recently launched two new companies: InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com, and is an advisor to docBeat. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and Google Plus.

New App Allows For HIPAA-Compliant Group Texting by Clinicians

John wrote previously on EMR and HIPAA about the need for HIPAA Secure Texting and a company he’s advising that does secure text messaging called docBeat.

Well, another new app called Medigram is being tested which will allow clinicians to send HIPAA-compliant text messages within a defined group. The app is currently in closed beta with docs at Stanford Hospital, Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital and the Palo Alto VA Hospital, according to iMedicalApps.com.

According to the company, Medigram meets not only HIPAA requirements but also privacy/security provisions in Subtitle D of HITECH.  It does so, in part, by using SSL connections between mobile apps and its servers, as well as NIST-approved 256-bit AES encryption to secure chat data.

Secure texting certainly seems like a good idea, given how mobile-friendly this generation of clinicians has turned out to be.  And it’s hard to argue Medigram’s core pitch, which is that texting is far more interactive than a pager. Given that a surprisingly large number of doctors still use pagers, improving on the model seems like a good thing.

My theory is that the app, if otherwise usable and bug-free, will be a big hit during its beta. If so, I expect to see HIPAA-compliant instant messaging turn up next. Smaller, presumably agile companies specializing in B2B messaging — such as HipChat, Trumpia and 24im — are logical candidates to develop such a utility. (This article outlines several other enterprise IM firms, just in case you want to dig deeper.)

Of course, there’s also Google and Microsoft, both of which have large IM bases. Perhaps creating a secure version of an existing product (such as Messenger) will be less of a marketing challenge than say, HealthVault.

Regardless, I’ll be quite interested to find out how the beta turns out — I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, here’s a video in which Medigram describes its product.

June 11, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is veteran healthcare consultant and analyst with 20 years of industry experience. Zieger formerly served as editor-in-chief of FierceHealthcare.com and her commentaries have appeared in dozens of international business publications, including Forbes, Business Week and Information Week. She has also contributed content to hundreds of healthcare and health IT organizations, including several Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at @annezieger on Twitter.