Some, but not all EHRs include the integrated presence of a patient portal to enable patients electronic access to some subset of their medical record. In the simplest terms patient portals, as defined by Wikipedia are “healthcare-related online applications that allow patients to interact and communicate with their healthcare providers”. Pretty good definition for me but of course the functionality in the various patient portals is all over the map. Some allow patients to communicate with their providers and request prescription refills, schedule appointments, allow updating of demographic/insurance information, and access lab results. The sky is the limit with the potential for patients and their healthcare providers to communicate and collaborate electronically through a patient portal.
Under the CMS EHR incentive program for Eligible Professionals there is Stage 1 meaningful use menu set measure that touches on the concept of patient portal functionality. But what is required for a vendor to demonstrate to gain certification? It certainly does not rise to the level of Wikipedia’s definition. For an EHR vendor this module would be certified by meeting the requirements for §170.304 (g) Timely Access. The vendor would need to demonstrate to their ONC Authorized Testing and Certification Body the functionality to:
“Enable a user to provide patients with online access to their clinical information, including, at a minimum, lab test results, problem list, medication list, and medication allergy list.”
There is no requirement for co-communication. For the purposes of Stage 1 EP certification all a vendor has to demonstrate is that they could show a patient’s capability to use “online access” to a minimal set of their health record. To meet this requirement some vendors have demonstrated complex, highly functional patient portals. Some vendors achieved certification by demonstrating they could upload a PDF of patient data to Microsoft HealthVault. Essentially they outsource the patient portal functionality to Microsoft. Some choose other ways to achieve certification for Timely Access. I would expect that Stage 2 requirements will be substantially higher for patient portal functionality. We will know all the details by the expected final rules next summer.