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Accountable care wants doctors to toss pagers

by Loren Bonner, DOTmed News Online Editor | June 27, 2013

With a secure system in place, Wergin said he's able to address information in real-time with the new messaging system that he wasn't able to do with a pager. For example, he can immediately receive and read a patient's lab results through the phone rather than spend the time calling back the number on the pager to find out about results or similar types of information.

The rural health clinic where Wergin practices is also on its way to becoming a patient-centered medical home. The first step in that process was adopting an electronic medical record, which they have successfully implemented over the past year. The clinic is now developing step two: the web portal.

A web portal is designed for both patients and providers to communicate securely with a log-in and authentication process. Wergin said part of the clinic's web portal will include a website patients can access with topics they might be concerned about, and the second part will enable direct patient and doctor communication.

"Personally, I think this will be a big help. We've spent so much time playing phone tag or sending letters out. But with the secure portal, I can reach out to you and say, 'contact us about your labs'" Wergin told DOTmed News.

Other features will include paying bills through the portal, scheduling appointments, and perhaps even performing e-visits.

"We're trying to work on what's the most ethical and secure way that our patients would accept this," said Wergin.

Based on many practices that have been using web portals, most have found that patients liked the access after they knew that it was secure. And awareness worked well when doctors and staff told patients directly about the system.

The Ponemon study found that 77 percent of respondents said that their organizations are already using a web portal for patients to view their medical records, schedule appointments and complete other administration tasks.

"I'm very surprised about this," said Larry Ponemon, founder of the Ponemon Institute, during a conference call about the study.

Beyond ACOs and PCMHs

It's not just primary care that's paving the way for more efficient communication technologies. According to Shrestha from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Critical Test Result Management (CTRM) has been a big focus in radiology. CTRM communicates critical test results back out to the ordering physician with a system that ensures a closed-loop, secure messaging workflow.

"CTRM has been honed over time, utilizing mobile phones and email to securely send out messages and communications," said Shrestha.

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