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How to Evaluate Patient Portal Efficiency

Carrie Vaughan, for HealthLeaders Media, October 5, 2010

There was the initial data mapping work with Phytel, so that it knew where the data were coming out of the finance system. Riverside's quality committee then evaluated the vendor's protocols and made adjustments based on the data in the financial system. It eliminated some of the protocols and modified others altering age intervals or changing the protocol from six months to one year, for example. The last piece was training practice staff on what to do when patients called in.

The Clinic followed a similar process--data mapping and reviewing protocols. Aside from the standard glitches associated with deploying new technology, "it was a very easy rollout," says Beth McGinnis, director of administrative services, billing, and information technology.

"When we turned the protocols on, we did some tweaking--patients were being called who we didn't want to be called," says McGinnis. The technology does have an opt-out capability, so you can remove those patients from the system or note when calls should resume.

Closing the care loop

The technology also funnels the data back to the care team so when a patient calls in the clinicians are prepared.

Initially, the patient would call saying, "I got this call saying that I need to come back in for some reason," says Frazier. The clinical staff would go right to Phytel's website to determine why the patient was called, ask some questions, and make an appointment when appropriate. Now, however, when an outreach call goes out, there is a document that is sent to Riverside's EMR system explaining why a patient was called.

"Now our staff doesn't have to go to a different application or website, and they can stay in their primary application, which is the EMR," Frazier says.

Riverside is also working on more scripting for its staff. When a patient calls, the clinician will now say, "You were called because we believe you need follow-up for diabetes. Does Dr. Frazier see you for diabetes?" That may seem like an odd question, Frazier says, but say that patient sees an endocrinologist who is not in the Riverside family. But "our financial system says that they have diabetes and haven't been in to see me for six months," he explains. "So the staff member can catch that and say, 'We'll make sure not to call you for diabetes anymore,' and update the system."

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