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Are Mobile Patient Portals the Next Step in Patient Engagement?

Mobile patient portals may be useful in granting patient data access on the go, improving overall patient engagement.

Patient portals are often viewed as critical tools to improve patient engagement, but not every consumer is able to access their health data from a home computer. According to some healthcare professionals, offering a mobile patient portal is the critical next step for expanding access to personal health information and raising the level of engagement for patients who may prefer to use smartphones and other mobile devices to manage their health.

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Enabling patients to access their health records via a mobile device gives them the opportunity to view lab results as soon as they receive them, or access appointment scheduling when they’re not at a traditional desktop computer.

These additional capabilities not only make healthcare more convenient for patients, but help providers do their jobs better. Mobile patient portals let providers engage with the patients outside of the doctor’s office and on the go, working with patients when it is convenient for them.

As more patients begin to demand more convenient ways to access their physicians and their healthcare, providers may consider the benefits of going mobile.

WESTMED mobile patient portal meets consumer needs

Healthcare is becoming more consumer-centric, making it important that providers offer tools that cater to patient preferences.

According to WESTMED Medical Group CIO Merin Joseph, MBA, mobile patient portal are critical in serving patient needs.

“We find that all of our patients want to use their mobile devices now to communicate with their physicians,” she told PatientEngagementHIT.com. “Patients want to book their appointments and they want to communicate with their physicians from their mobile devices.”

WESTMED has answered patient needs by adopting Bridge Patient Portal, which leverages an mHealth interface.

Prior to adopting an mHealth portal option, WESTMED used a computer-only patient portal. While patients used this tool to communicate with their physicians, Joseph and her team knew there was room to grow.

“With the patients who use [the portal], we see that there’s an active collaboration between them and the provider,” Joseph explained. “Our goal is to continue that and provide it for what the patients are used to right now, which is more of the mobile devices.”

Ideally, when patients can securely message their providers on the go, they will be able to build even stronger relationships and yield better clinical outcomes.

According to Joseph, mobile patient portal access is the way of the future. As consumer technology use becomes more immersive, it will be important for the healthcare industry to keep up, she said.

“This is what we all should be doing. This is what the consumer is expecting,” Joseph asserted. “They’re demanding greater control over their care, and the mobile app and the portal are just tools that they can use to collaborate with their providers to achieve better outcomes. This is just another tool to help our patients.”

Mobile patient portals enable patient data use

David Weinstock, MD, a primary care physician at Grove Medical Associates, likewise sees mobile patient portals as a next step. In a separate interview with PatientEngagementHIT.com, Weinstock described how the Massachusetts-based clinic has started to leverage technology for patient engagement.

When Grove Medical first adopted the patient portal, it was just another part of their eClinicalWorks EHR. However, once Weinstock and his colleagues saw the benefits of the portal, they began encouraging patients to register.

Soon, patients started to see the benefits as well, and patient portal use took off.

Although the patient portal has been helpful in meeting patient needs and extending them access to their health data, Weinstock thinks mHealth can further enhance patient care.

The primary care physician uses his EHR vendor’s mHealth platform to gather patient-generated health data from wearables and works with the patient to monitor her care.

“I can actually see blood pressures, blood sugars, how much they’re exercising all through the app, which is kind of the next step in my mind of patient engagement,” Weinstock said.

The app, called Healow, connects to other patient-centered mHealth apps, such as Fitbit or Apple HealthKit. After Healow aggregates this data, it shows up in Weinstock’s EHR, allowing him to engage with patients outside of the point of care.

For example, exercise data from the Fitbit will show if a weight loss management program is helping, or blood pressure data from HealthKit can inform providers about chronic care management plans. Patient and doctor can then work out better paths forward, Weinstock said.

“I’ve had some great outcomes with blood pressure measurements and people who are resistant to taking medication,” he explained. “It was a great way to engage those patients into actively managing their care.”

Mobile patient portals and engagement tools are the next step toward patient behavioral change and wellness management, Weinstock said.

“I think that kind of engagement is where we’re headed, where you can have your own device at home and that information can still be transmitted to the office. Then we can access it, send messages through the portal, because it’s all via the technology that we have,” Weinstock concluded.

“It’s very easy to do on my end and it makes a very big difference to patients… I view this as a big piece of healthcare and where it’s going to head.”

Mount Sinai Health System app offers diverse functionality

Earlier this year, Mount Sinai Health System also developed a mobile patient portal. The health system launched MountSinaiNY to offer patients a wide array of opportunities to engage with their providers and the health system as a whole.

“The MountSinaiNY app is a digital gateway to the many services we provide at Mount Sinai,” Kumar Chatani, Mount Sinai’s Executive Vice President and CIO, said in a press release. “We continue to use innovative technology to engage patients while streamlining their experience within our health system.”

The app integrates several features of the patient portal, including medical record access, appointment scheduling, and online bill pay. It also features general health system information including operating hours, parking, directions to different facilities, and urgent care locations.

Mount Sinai officials said the app was geared toward patient needs, helping them to manage all aspects of their health – including care and payment management – in one spot.

“We are developing innovative, user-friendly platforms to give our patients access to all our health system has to offer,” said Sandra Myerson, Mount Sinai’s Chief Patient Experience Officer. “The MountSinaiNY app will connect patients with our renowned physicians while enabling them to seamlessly manage key business matters.”

Although these mobile patient portals are just starting to make an impact, they hold potential for improving patient engagement. By allowing patients to enjoy the benefits of the patient portal via their smartphones, healthcare organizations can keep patients continuously activated in their care. This ideally will result in higher portal adoption rates, and ultimately better care outcomes.

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