Portal technology poised for growth, spurred on by MU Stage 2 requirements

In the increasingly integrated world of healthcare IT, one initiative often overlaps another. That appears to be the case – with a resulting positive impact – as EHR adoption via federal meaningful use incentives becomes entwined with the budding acceptance of patient portals.

Meaningful use Stage 2 requires that physicians engage with their patients and share more information. As such, providers feel a sense of urgency to put in place online tools through which patients can view and download their health information, such as test results and medications. This will help eligible providers meet criteria for meaningful use and accountable care models, according to a report released Jan. 2 by the research firm KLAS.

Providers seek convenience and ease of integration to implement these tools with their current system, so the relationship with their EHR vendor is the most important factor in choosing a patient portal, according to KLAS researcher and report author Mark Allphin.

“While functionality and ease of use are important to providers, they take a backseat compared to providers' desire to manage fewer vendors and interfaces,” Allphin said. Respondents included a mix of health systems, hospitals, and clinics.

About one-half of the interviewed providers already had a portal in place, primarily from their current health IT vendor. Providers who need to connect a number of disparate EHRs were the only group more likely to choose a best-of-breed technology.

While many providers are choosing to use their EHR vendor’s patient portal, the report noted significant interest with other third-party vendors, including Intuit Health, Jardogs, MEDSEEK, NextGen and RelayHealth. The report details experiences with major vendors, including Cerner and Epic, and takes an early look at some of their patient portal tools.