Patient Portals or Potholes?
Over the last few years, there has been a surge in the number of NHS Trusts deploying patient portal solutions. Giving patients immediate access to their hospital record, the ability to manage appointments, access letters, clinical documentation and patient leaflets is hugely positive.
Much of the information populating the patient portal is fed via HL7 from multiple sources and so downstream data flows in real-time.
I would argue that portals only go halfway.
Based on human experiences of using other applications that satisfy our demands of immediacy within a no-wait society, there is a risk that patient portals will just frustrate and disappoint, and therefore, the patient may disengage altogether.
All of the portals I have seen first-hand rely on administrators behind the scenes to monitor a patient portal console and then manually process patient requests to change or cancel appointments. Imagine the scenario where a patient has an appointment in the morning at 9 am. They feel unwell the night before and do the right thing by accessing the portal to request an alternative appointment. There is a very high chance that this patient will DNA as the administration team were unable to process the request fast enough as they are open 9 am to 5 pm Monday to Friday.
In the mid-term, integrating and developing APIs to support two-way real-time transactions across the full range of interactive elements will help, but this will rely on multiple vendors collaborating and is dependent upon the portal providers roadmap and appetite for change.
At East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT), we are partnering with a portal supplier who will bring my vision into reality. Our intelligent automation platform, coupled with the portal platform, will allow us to build something amazing elements of which can be shared via the NHS Marketplace.
Our intelligent automation enhanced Patient Portal will
Book, reschedule and cancel patient appointments in real-time 24x7
Distribute patient leaflets and support information based on the assigned patient pathway
Translate documentation into the patient's primary language
Receive e-forms for onward triaging and or processing, for example, maternity self-referrals and surgery pre-assessment forms.
Provide access to bespoke speciality applications and monitoring tools.
Using a patient portal to exploit the power of intelligent automation will release so much value, save vast amounts of time and deliver a better patient experience.