Achieving Patient Access Requirement Using Portals

Witness one hospital’s plan for fulfilling Stage 2 meaningful use criteria.

By Robin Ingalls-Fitzgerald, CPC, CEMC, CEDC, CCS
Last September, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published a final rule specifying the Stage 2 criteria that eligible professionals (EPs), hospitals, and critical access hospitals (CAHs) must meet to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs. One objective of the Stage 2 requirements is patient access to health information.
Patient Portal Set into Action
Most EPs and hospitals are implementing patient portals to achieve the Stage 2 objective. To better understand what is involved in the process, let’s take a look at one facility’s patient portal implementation journey.
Scenario: After successful attestation of Stage 1 of meaningful use (MU1), “Hospital A” must quickly implement a plan for MU2 adoption and subsequent implementation of the patient portal.
Plan of Action: The information technology (IT) director summons the troops, engaging quality, medical, nursing, and health information leaders across the organization to formulate an implementation plan. The IT department spearheads the patient portal project, facilitating meetings, engaging organization leadership, and executing it.
At the first meeting, more questions than answers arise. Specifically, how will the facility meet the requirement of 50 percent of its patient population signed up for the portal, with at least 5 percent using it?
Identify Methods to Adopt Patient Portals
Organization leadership identifies several methods to facilitate patient portal adoption:

  1. The Patient Access department collects patient emails through the registration process.
  2. The IT department generates automated emails to the patients providing portal instructions.
  3. Community engagement and awareness are keys to a successful implementation. The Case Management and Public Relations departments organize outreach events to increase patient portal visibility. The public relations representative works with a local marketing firm to integrate the patient portal into the organization’s public website.
  4. To increase information availability within the organization, the Health Information Management (HIM) department installs a patient portal kiosk to facilitate release of information.
  5. The HIM department monitors incoming emails and fielding phone calls for the portal.

Stay Tuned for Results
The implementation of the Patient Portal is challenging the traditional way the HIM department handles information release. The HIM department now rotates three staff members to handle patient portal support. The system goes live April 1, 2014. Stay tuned for more lessons learned after that date.

Robin Ingalls-Fitzgerald, CPC, CEMC, CEDC, CCS, has been in the healthcare industry for over 29 years and a coder for 19 years. Her expertise is in E/M coding, in both the emergency department and practice settings. Ingalls-Fitzgerald’s knowledge of Medicare coding and billing guidelines, NCDs, LCDs, and CCI edits is an invaluable resource to facility and practice billing departments, facilitating accurate claims submission, reducing claims rejections, and eliminating costly rework. She is a member of the Manchester, N.H., local chapter.
John Verhovshek
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About Has 576 Posts

John Verhovshek, MA, CPC, is a contributing editor at AAPC. He has been covering medical coding and billing, healthcare policy, and the business of medicine since 1999. He is an alumnus of York College of Pennsylvania and Clemson University.

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