New government requirements have pushed patient portals upon the American population. The plan behind these portals is to provide a secure website that patients can access whenever they need in order to view their medical information. It’s a good idea in theory, but in practice it’s not working out as well. People want more patient engagement from their healthcare providers, and here are the reasons why.

 

The Politicization of Patient Portals

 On the one hand, it seems like patient portals are an excellent idea. After all, technology moves ever onward, and with most medical centers moving toward electronic health records, having more online patient access should be a good thing. Unfortunately, part of the problem is a matter of politics. The highly controversial Affordable Healthcare Act, also known as Obamacare, made patient portals a requirement in healthcare and insurance. However, the high level of resistance from states in opposition combined with poor rollouts by those who were cooperating has created a mess. Instead of increasing patient engagement, the new system has wound up creating an engagement gap.

The Importance of Engagement

The problem with patient portals right now is that they are not built properly and don’t provide a good user experience. This is partially because they don’t integrate properly with electronic health records used by hospitals. That means that when you use a patient portal, you’ll probably need to repeat a lot of the same information directly to your healthcare provider because the data doesn’t get transferred properly. This decreases engagement and causes patients to take a less active role in their healthcare. Any move that can increase patient engagement, on the other hand, improves the chance of a healthy lifestyle. The more patients get involved with personal healthcare, the healthier they will be.

 

What Patients Want

To view things from a patient perspective, the healthcare process is a pretty scary thing. There are all sorts of new procedures and processes in place, and most people with the authority to do so have not taken the time to really explain these changes to the public. This makes for a less educated group of people who don’t feel like they have as much control over their own health. The average patient wants to feel like they are in good hands and wants to have a good understanding about what is going on. This is especially true of patients who are facing a serious illness – the more they engage with their provider, the safer they feel. Patient engagement has a direct impact on the quality of care given.

The new systems and their poor interface with existing electronic health records is providing a major barrier in patient engagement. Because of this, patients are not receiving the level of communication they want or need. Patients who are uninformed are less likely to care about their long-term healthcare. The best way to combat this problem is to take steps to give patients what they want: providers who are engaged, active, and able to communicate effectively with them.