Ways to Pump Up Your Bottom Line (Despite Healthcare Reform)

Leigh Page


October 25, 2012

In This Article

7. Create a Patient Portal

Patient portals, which allow patients to consult their healthcare data through a secure Website, are a key element in the new trend toward patient-centered care. They are championed by the ACA through such projects as the new Physician Compare Website. In addition, stage 2 of the meaningful use rules for healthcare information technology requires that 5% of a physician's patients access their records online, which is one function of the portal.

Laurie Morgan says that a patient portal makes a practice more efficient. Patients can go there to make or change appointments, access laboratory test information, pay bills online, and view their medical record. They can also use it to order medication refills and have e-visits with their doctors.

Grove Medical Associates, a 4-physician practice in Auburn, Massachusetts, recently installed a portal that is now used by 80% of its patients, according to Gail Cetto, RN, Grove's office manager. "We love our portal," she says. "The first thing that our physicians do in the morning is answer patients' questions on the portal."

The Grove physicians get about 10 messages a day from patients through the portal, one half of which involve refills. The rest are e-visits, which are not reimbursed by Grove's biggest payer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. Cetto says that the payer argued it could not verify e-visits. She is asking the company to recognize data verifying the e-visit from the practice's EMR system, but the company has not responded yet.

In 2009 survey, less than 5% of doctors said they were being reimbursed for e-visits, and payments averaged about $30 per e-visit, compared with $75-$100 for an office consultation, according to a June 7, 2010, article in the Los Angeles Times.[1] Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina adopted coverage for e-visits in 2009. On its Website, the company says it limits payment to interactions that involve "at least a problem-focused history and straightforward medical decision-making as defined by the CPT [Current Procedural Terminology] manual."