Among all the focus on developing new technologies to aid healthcare providers, most clinicians will tell you the same thing: Healthcare still comes down to patient care and the patient experience. And the folks at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) believe that too, as evidenced by a significant update in the Meaningful Use Stage 1 requirements for 2014, which now include a core objective “to provide patients with ability to view online, download, and transmit health information for all providers.” That’s another way of saying providers now need to provide a patient portal in order to meet Stage 1.
Instead of seeing this as yet another burdensome requirement that needs to be met, healthcare organizations should consider it an opportunity to improve communication with their patients. Further, Meaningful Use Stage 2 already has a significant patient engagement element requiring that providers show at least 5 percent of patients are using patient portals to view, download and transmit their health information as well as send secure electronic messages to their provider. While 5 percent may not seem like a lot, those providers who are now pursuing Stage 2 are significantly concerned about reaching those levels of engagement, so having a functional portal required earlier should make it easier to hit the minimum participation rate down the road.