Pulling the plug on an electronic health record (EHR) that cannot keep up with the times is a scary proposition for any practice. So much time and money has been invested in training, customizing (if possible), and interfacing with other devices, software and systems that it seems like economic suicide to even contemplate migrating to a new application. Now, let's say that there is nothing really wrong with the EHR, it finally works the way that salesman promised you it would, and it is certified to position the practice to achieve Meaningful Use Stage 2. The staff can zip through encounters and the doctors are finally back up to their full patient schedule, just like in the good old days of paper charts, yet patients are not responsive to the portal.
For whatever reason, despite the best efforts of the marketing team and clinical staff cheerleading, patients are not buying into secure, online communications. Even with all the smoke and mirrors that the EHR vendor has recommended for the marketing plan to get engagement numbers where they should be, patients are still calling on the phone to request appointments, ask about their condition, and question their invoices. Perhaps it's time for a portal that was designed with the patients as the center of the care continuum.
Practices should consider implementing a supplemental patient portal in the event that what they are using is not working out. Doctors and staff should ask patients what their experiences were like on the EHR vendor's patient portal, and go out and find a third party portal that will provide a solution the patient's frustrations. Perhaps the patient wanted to pay a bill online, or simply use one portal to communicate with all of their doctors (not just the ones at your practice).
Solutions exist in the personal health record market that will help practices to successfully and securely engage their patients online by encouraging patients to control and maintain their own health record. Once a practice identifies and appropriate solution, remember that it is not a good idea to abandon the old portal. If some patients are already using the vendor portal, let them stay the course, but also make them aware that a personal health record could also be beneficial in helping them to treat an ongoing condition. A supplemental certified patient portal may be the difference in meeting the goals of Meaningful Use Stage 2 in 2015 if these first couple months have not gone as planned.