Do You Hate Portals?

Posted on June 6, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I was really interested in this summary of today’s #HITsm Twitter chat. Do people hate portals?

I think if we look at the portals as they stand today, it’s fair to say that people hate portals. They can’t remember their login. They’re complicated. They don’t solve the problems they want them to solve. There are too many of them. It’s just a mess.

I think we all agree that the idealized patient portal would be something we all value. Here are the characteristics of an idealized patient portal:

  • One Login
  • All Health Data from Every Provider (Yes, that includes labs, x-rays, etc)
  • Messaging with Clinic Staff
  • Messaging with Provider
  • Refill Requests
  • Appointment Request
  • Bill Payment
  • One Standard Health History (Intake) Form Accepted by All
  • Data from Personal Health Sensors and Trackers
  • Smart Notifications and Processing of Data

I’m probably missing something, but this list does a pretty good job covering what the ideal patient portal would look like. If someone could execute this patient portal, then we would all love to use it and there would be near universal adoption of it (minus a few people who don’t get on a computer). Sure, we’d still complain about the user interface or some other thing because we love to complain, but we’d all use it just the same.

There are actually some providers who have completed this list for everything that they control (ie. they don’t include data from other providers, don’t handle the intake forms for other providers and don’t do the sensor data). These providers have seen some pretty good traction with their portals, but they wane in use since just having one provider on it isn’t as compelling as a portal that has our entire health history. For many providers you might only see them every 3-5 years (or less). After 3 years, it’s just easier to pickup the phone than to figure out the portal.

This is the reason why Kaiser’s portal has been quite successful. They control the whole spectrum and so they can get pretty close to the above portal nirvana. Until we’re able to do something like that across the spectrum of healthcare in one place, many people will hate their portal (or maybe I should have said “their dozens of portals”).

I personally wonder if we’ll ever get there. If we do, I think it will be some company which goes in and solves one element in a way that provides immediate value to everyone involved. Then, they’ll layer the other features on top of it until they create the portal that everyone loves.