How to Evaluate Patient Portal Efficiency

Carrie Vaughan, October 5, 2010

When Riverside Health System implemented its EMR in 1996, the idea was that it would be able to use the data to help drive improvements in care.

"We thought we'd have all of the data fields in our notes," says Charles Frazier, MD, vice president of innovation. "Everybody thinks we'll get all this data and be able to do all of this stuff with it, but it is a difficult thing."

After 10 years, the VA-based health system—which consists of four acute care hospitals, rehabilitation and long-term care facilities, and the Riverside Medical Group, a 350-member multispecialty physician practice—was still working on problem lists, lab values, medications, and elements such as gender and age. Today, the health system is still continually trying to improve how it puts information into the EMR, Frazier says.

Riverside developed a patient portal in 2003 to improve communication with patients and provide guidance on preventive care. But after several years, only 20,000 of the health system's some 350,000 active patients were using the portal. 

"When you have such a small percentage connected on the Web, you have to think of something else, and most everybody has telephones," says Frazier. 

So Riverside implemented Dallas-based software vendor Phytel, Inc.'s proactive patient outreach solution to help it follow up with patients—especially those who are out of compliance and in need of recommended care.

The technology captures data from practice management, scheduling, billing, and/or clinical information systems such as EMRs. It then creates physician-specific registries and screens patients based on a couple hundred nationally recognized disease management and preventive health protocols.

Carrie Vaughan Carrie Vaughan is a senior editor with HealthLeaders magazine. She can be reached at

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