Patient Portals Get Social

Gienna Shaw, March 22, 2011

The patient portal of today has some neat features that are convenient for patients and save time and money for providers—online appointment scheduling and lab results for example. But what will the portal of the future look like?

Well, it might have a social media vibe, according to providers and experts I interviewed for a story on patient portals in this month's issue of HealthLeaders Magazine.

"The future of the patient portal is unlimited at this point," said Barbara Fahl-Watkins, administrator of the Heart & Vascular Center of Arizona. "I feel like we are just scratching the surface in finding new ways to communicate more thoroughly and efficiently with patients."

Eventually, portals could bring together virtual collaborative care teams that patients can access when it is convenient to them.

"In the future we will see the emergence of collaborative care plans where patients and doctors collaborate on disease management through patient portals," Brandon Savage, MD, chief medical officer at GE Healthcare IT, says in the article. "These interactions can be tied to collaborative care plans which ensure that best practices for quality, cost, and efficiency can be continuously brought to the patient not only at the point of care but throughout their daily life."

Smartphones and other small portable devices such as tablets have already changed the way consumers connect and communicate—in healthcare, patient and physician interaction will "likely occur much more with brief frequent interactions like Twitter than through prolonged infrequent interactions via a desktop computer," he says.

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