Seattle health system is on pace to process more than one million inbound and outbound portal messages by end of the year.
Managing care is easier and more efficient for Virginia Mason patients and providers thanks to its patient portal.
“We save an estimated three to five minutes of staff time for every self-scheduled appointment on the portal,” said Virginia Mason Medical Director of Clinical Informatics A. James Bender, MD. “That adds up to a savings of more than 41,000 minutes from January to July 2017. This has freed up office staff to spend more time with patients.”
Norris Kamo, MD, primary care internist and section head of adult primary care clinic, Virginia Mason University Village Medical Center, authored a peer-reviewed article in 2016 about the organization’s patient portal success.1 During the first seven months of 2017, patients scheduled more than 13,750 appointments using the portal. In addition to patient-scheduled appointments and secure messaging, the portal can process refill requests.
“As a Virginia Mason patient, I’ve self-scheduled a few appointments, and the convenience is amazing,” said Kamo. “It’s one step toward bringing health care in line with other service industries in the 21st century.”
As of July 2017, some 450 to 500 patient-scheduled appointments were made each week. Virginia Mason estimates that there is a savings of staff cost of five dollars per call leading to substantial annual savings.1 Bender points out, “that taking the waste out of the patient’s experience has substantial impact on operational cost. Our patients have been requesting this functionality, and everyone benefits.”
For providers, Cerner’s patient portal is designed to ease the burden of reporting patient results, since every test result is electronically communicated. According to Google Analytics, there have been more than 20 million page views within the portal since Virginia Mason started tracking the metric in 2014. Bender knows it's been a helpful tool for patients because they keep coming back.
The Seattle-based health system received a total of 685,672 inbound and outbound messages during the first seven months of 2017 — putting it on pace to process more than 1 million messages for the year. Kamo sees the value in more convenient and precise means of communication.
“Electronic results reporting is much easier [to communicate and share] than the process for creating a paper results letter,” said Kamo. “If you make it easier for providers to report test results through the portal and communicate with staff through Cerner clinical messaging, they will adopt it.”
The portal also gives patients the comfort of better managing their own care. In 2015, the Virginia Mason patient portal user group was one of Cerner’s largest, with more than 100,000 users. Providers encourage patients to sign up, and as of July 2017, Virginia Mason’s portal group expanded to 163,089 users.
“I think this reflects how lean process improvement through the Virginia Mason Production System, along with technology, can improve adoption of patient portal technology,” said Kamo. “Our standard process is for medical assistants to enroll patients onto the patient portal during clinic rooming. We have standard work for results reporting for providers, and we have standard information flow processing systems in place to interact with patients via the portal in a timely manner.”
Kamo anticipates continued portal growth at Virginia Mason, benefitting both providers and the patient population.
“Our vision is the patient ultimately owns their health record and is able to access it anywhere, any place. Moving forward, our goal is for patients to become active contributors to their health record, with input in their health goals, the ability to express concerns and health data presented to them in a structured manner such that we not only care for individuals, but also learn about how to better engage with and manage care for our entire population,” said Kamo.
1Kamo, Norifumi, Bender, A. James, Kalmady, Kavitha, Blackmore, C. Craig, Healthcare, available online October 7, 2016, "Meaningful use of the electronic patient portal - Virginia Mason's journey to create the perfect online patient experience", http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S2213076416300665