Portals encourage participation
Lorincz compares physician practice portals to online banking websites, which are increasingly popular ways for customers to access and manage their bank accounts and related services.
"Portals can do the same thing for patients, making it much easier for them to be informed and involved in their care," she says. "Research indicates that providing patients with greater access to their medical information can increase their knowledge and provide a greater sense of control. When that information is available electronically, it can prompt people to take a more active interest in their healthcare."
Other than the largest physician practices, few physician groups are very far along in this effort, Drazen says. One obstacle is that until you have an EMR, you don't have much information you can send the patient electronically or make available through the patient portal, she says.
Drazen advises doctors to begin their efforts to improve accountable care as soon as possible, partly so there is time to make mistakes and correct them before the results are used to determine reimbursement or penalties.
"In terms of Stage 2 meaningful use, 2013 is when you're really going to have to have the portals and other infrastructure in place," Drazen says. "A lot of commercial payers have already put quality standards in place for physician practices that include measures for accountable care and patient engagement, and if you don't meet them, you don't get your part of the bonus pool. So the time to do this is right now."
Getting your patients more involved in their care: Where to start?
Considering the complexity of the programs established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, physician practices may wonder where to begin in coordinating their patient engagement activities.