Giving Patients Access to their Health Information

With the attestation deadline for Stage 1 of Meaningful Use a short 5 months away (October 1), clinic staff who are using certified electronic medical record (EMR) and patient portal technology will need to adopt new workflows to manage the release of patient information. The Meaningful Use objectives and measures have minimum requirements that must be met, and we’ve put together an overview and tips on how clinic staff can easily meet those requirements using our Patient Engagement Portal.

First off, assign a Meaningful Use coordinator. Someone whose job it is to make sure the new processes are being followed, and objectives and measures are being met. Some clinics are assigning an in house staff member while others are using an outside consultant. Also determine which clinic staff will have authority to review and release patient information via the patient portal as data is updated from the EMR.

The Meaningful Use coordinator needs to understand each objective and measure that must be met for Stage 1, and what their clinic’s strategy is to meet those objectives. Note that all of the optional (menu set) objectives in Stage 1 become mandatory (core set) objectives in Stage 2. While it may be tempting to put off the optional Stage 1 objectives until they become mandatory, now is a good time to take advantage of the shifts in workflow to implement new processes that will improve efficiency over the longer term.

You don’t want to expend energy on a temporary workflow solution that will need to be replaced in 18 months to address the Stage 2 requirements.  On your journey to meeting the Meaningful Use objectives, why have one or two stopovers when you can take a direct flight that will get you there faster?

Next, identify which certified technology you will use to report on each measure. Your EMR will be used for some, while your patient portal will be used for others. The objectives Navigating Cancer’s Patient Engagement Portal solves include:

  1. Give patients electronic copy of their health information (Core #12)
  2. Record key patient demographics (Core #7)
  3. Record smoking status (Core #9)
  4. Give patients clinical summaries for each office visit (Core #13)
  5. Protect electronic health information (Core #15)
  6. Exchange key clinical information among providers (Core #14)
  7. Give patients timely electronic access to their health information (Menu #5)
  8. Provide patient-specific education resources (Menu #6)
  9. Provide summary of care record for referrals (Menu #8)

The objectives in plain text are solved with no work required by clinic staff, they are either built into the portal or are completed by patients during registration. The remaining four objectives in bold will require an action by clinic staff to release information from the clinic to the patient’s account on the portal. The following is an overview of the new workflow to release patient information using Navigating Cancer’s Patient Engagement Portal:

  1. A patient’s medical information is updated in your practice’s EMR
  2. Approved lab results, vitals, medications, problems, medication allergies and clinical summaries after a patient’s visit become available for clinic staff to review in the Navigating Cancer staff dashboard.
  3. Clinic staff are informed that new information is available to be released to patients, with a deadline for when it must be released in accordance with the Meaningful Use objectives.
  4. Authorized clinic staff decides whether to release or withhold specific items to the patient’s portal account.
  5. The patient is sent a notification that they have new information in their patient portal, which they can access securely by logging into their portal account.

While changes to familiar workflows may cause some anxiety among staff, thinking through and adopting consistent processes will make it easier to achieve Meaningful Use with minimal disruption. More importantly, patients will have easier access to their medical information and helpful resources so they can be more engaged in their care, which studies have shown leads to a better quality of life and better health.

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