As patients become more and more interested in engaging and communicating with their healthcare providers online, the demand for portal applications will only increase. Patients are looking for innovative ways to access their health information and care providers – what better way than online patient portals?

Portals are healthcare related online applications that allow patients to interact with their healthcare providers through secure websites or integrated electronic medical records (EMRs). These applications can give patients the ability to request prescription refills, make appointments, receive medical reminders, view billing statements, and ask providers questions about ongoing treatment regimens (2). The key is engagement and it’s a growing trend among individuals who expect the most out of their provider‐patient relationships.

While portals empower patients to take control of their treatment and recovery, they hold even greater potential for healthcare providers. In particular, these platforms can substantially enhance the quality of physical therapy care. Compliance is an overarching issue for ensuring proper recovery during the physical rehabilitative process. Think home exercise regimens, post‐surgical contraindications, body mechanics… physical therapists always have so much to communicate and monitor. As we discussed in past blogs, compliance plays a direct role in patient outcomes. Portals provide a secure platform for sending important messages directly to patients and monitoring their compliance at the clinic and outside of it. The downstream effects are increased efficiency and productivity, reduction in administrative overhead costs and improved patient outcomes. These applications also allow therapists to expand their practices’ reach by providing innovative solutions for patients that are geographically inaccessible.

So, you may well ask: is now really the time to integrate this type of technology in my practice? In a recent survey conducted by Intuit Health, 73% of respondents said that they would use an online communication application to pay medical bills, communicate with their physician or physician office, make appointments and view lab results (1). More than 40% said they would consider switching physicians in order to obtain such access. Research such as this makes it clear that patients are eager to adopt such applications and now is the time for providers to get on board.

The use of portal technology is inevitable as patients take control of their health and demand two‐way communication platforms from their providers. As we innovate around ways to increase the quality of care provided to patients, the integration of secure portals should become a mainstay for effective clinical practice.

Resources

1. Shinkman, R. 2011. Americans want more online access to physicians, FierceHealthIT, http://www.fiercehealthit.com/story/americans‐want‐more‐online‐access‐physicians/2011‐03‐07.

2. Terry, K. 2011. Patient portal use becoming an inevitability, ForceHealthIT, http://www.fiercehealthit.com/story/patient‐portal‐use‐becoming‐inevitability/2011‐04‐23.

This guest post was co‐authored by Bronwyn Spira, P.T., President of Force Therapeutics and Mark Anthony Fields, Ph.D., M.P.H, Digital Media Associate of Force Therapeutics. Force Therapeutics is an online suite of solutions tailored for the busy physical therapist. Force Therapeutics can be found at www.forcetherapeutics.com, www.facebook.com/forcetherapeutics, or www.twitter.com/ForceTherEx.