The COVID-19 pandemic has had enormous impacts across the globe. It has changed how many organizations and industries operate. Healthcare has likely been impacted more than any other field. Some of these impacts have been obvious such as the rapid expansion of treatment facilities. Others have been more subtle. For example, patient portals and telemedicine have proven to be effective tools for enhancing the efficiency and safety of healthcare.
COVID-19 and Medical Practice Safety
The rapid spread of COVID-19, especially through asymptomatic patients, has required that people and organizations be very careful about crowds and networks of virus transmission. Healthcare practices, even those that aren’t directly treating the pandemic, are relatively high-risk sites.
To help minimize the likelihood of spreading the disease, many practices have updated their procedures to minimize wait times and in-person contact. For example, many have reduced their walk-in appointment options and also require patients to take their temperature and answer screener questions before arriving. Providers have also leaned on telemedicine as a way to mitigate the risk of transmission.
Advantages of Patient Portals
Healthcare portals can make managing patient care and ensuring patient safety easier. These are some of the key features and benefits of these tools.
- Telemedicine: Using portals, patients can connect with their healthcare providers over the internet. While there are other ways to achieve this, purpose-built portals are usually the best choice. They are HIPAA-compliant and easy to use. In many cases, patients can simply click or tap on their appointments to connect for a telemedicine consultation.
- Appointment Setting and Information Sharing: Another key advantage is the ability to set, manage and check appointments. When patients have access to information about their healthcare, they have fewer questions and feel more empowered. By letting them create appointments online, they don’t have to phone into the office. It is a streamlined appointment system that benefits everyone.
- Patient Messaging: Patient communication is an essential element of effective care. Traditionally, this has happened mostly in-person between patients and providers. The phone and mail have supplemented this communication when appropriate. However, with portals, it is possible to send HIPAA-compliant messages electronically. This makes patient-provider communication much easier.
- Medical Billing: Portals also make it easier to deliver statements to patients and collect payment. Some systems are designed to be easy to use with outsourced medical billing companies. So, the patient, provider and biller are all on the same page and seeing data from a single, integrated workflow.
- Test Result Management: Similarly, patients can see their lab and test results on portals. This is much easier than needing to call patients to let them know that their results have arrived. Plus, it gives more control and agency to the patient, increasing trust and satisfaction.
- Medication Details and Refill: Patients can view their medications via portals. This can make it easier for them to track refills and know when they need new prescriptions. Additionally, it means that the patient knows which medications are in your records, helping to improve communication and avoid any complications.
- General Information: Most healthcare practices have general information that needs to be shared with large groups of patients. This may include changes to policies, hours or upcoming events. With a patient portal, that information can be shared securely and with relative ease.
In short, medical portals help to make interacting with patients over the internet possible. They provide compliant communication and secure data access. Every field has been impacted and improved by internet solutions over the past few decades. While backend solutions such as EHR systems have already helped healthcare, portals allow practices to extend those benefits directly to patients.
The Role of Portals During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The benefits of healthcare portals can help solve many of the challenges presented by COVID-19. For example, patients can book and manage their appointments easily online. This makes requiring appointments easier, even for patients who are used to walking in. Additionally, many portal solutions make it easy to ask screener questions about the disease to help mitigate the risk of spread and increase patient safety.
Telemedicine means that patients who may have been exposed or who may not need an in-person exam and consultation can receive prompt and safe healthcare. Additionally, patients can receive easy access to their COVID-19 test results, helping to reduce anxiety and guide patient behavior.
As policies around tests and vaccines have been updated, patients have had questions or needed updates from their primary care providers. The general information sharing features of healthcare portals help to make this easier than ever.
Overall, with the right portal, healthcare practices can do a better job managing patient care and ensuring medical practice safety. It has been a century since the last time there was a pandemic of such global proportions. Modern tools and healthcare practices have proved immensely useful in the fight against COVID-19. Even seemingly humble solutions such as patient portals have made it easier to manage public health needs.