Online Portals Challenge WebMD as Patients’ Source for Health Info

(Page 2 of 4) content from the same place many of them already go to view information about their care.

In 2015, Mayo signed a contract with Verona, WI-based Epic Systems to install the digital health company’s patient records software. It’s estimated to be a $1.5 billion project, according to recent news reports.

Epic’s software allows users at healthcare organizations to document information on patients during and after appointments, and also to perform tasks like prescribing medications and indicating what charges should go on a patient’s hospital bill.

But Epic has also developed patient-facing products, most notably the online portal MyChart. Among other features, it allows people to view their lab test results, request prescription refills, and exchange messages securely with clinicians at sites where they receive care. Alan Hutchison, a vice president at Epic, claims that MyChart is the most widely adopted patient portal in the U.S.

Earlier this year, Mayo and Epic announced a partnership allowing organizations that use Epic’s records software to embed Mayo Clinic health information content in MyChart. As a result of the partnership, patients will be able to access information relevant to their diagnoses or care after they’ve been discharged from the hospital or had imaging work done, for example.

“Let’s say the patient receives information through their portal about a finding on an X-ray and it [mentions] ‘spinal stenosis,’” Pruthi says. As a result of the new partnership, patients will be able to click an “info” button, which links to content on spinal stenosis, she says.

Patients using Epic’s MyChart patient portal app will be able to tap the “i” button below each of their health issues and view content about that issue that’s authored and edited by doctors, researchers, and other Mayo Clinic employees. Image courtesy of Mayo Clinic.

Many U.S. health systems currently provide specific discharge instructions and other materials through digital tools that are separate from—but integrate with—their records systems. These patient education software companies include Healthwise, Krames, and Elsevier. Pruthi says the Mayo Clinic content that can be made available to patients through MyChart is more general than patient education materials, and is not designed to replace them.

Pruthi adds that putting expert-reviewed health information into patient portals, which many people already use to handle certain matters related to their own healthcare, might keep them from finding less reliable information in other parts of the Web.

“I think this is improving patient understanding about their diagnosis,” she says. “It’s interesting, because when patients are told that they have a specific diagnosis, what do they do? They tend go search on Google to find more information. By providing the information with accurate and personalized information through MyChart, we are hoping to improve communication and patient knowledge.”

Once patients are able to start viewing Mayo Clinic’s content through MyChart on their computers and mobile devices, they will not see any ads, Pruthi says. (None of Epic’s clients have gone live with the MyChart-Mayo Clinic Health Information Library functionality yet, a Mayo spokesperson says in an e-mail.)

Meanwhile, several of the electronic health records (EHR) software vendors that compete with Epic, including Kansas City, MO-based Cerner (NASDAQ: CERN) and Watertown, MA-based Athenahealth (NASDAQ: ATHN), have their own patient portal applications.

The three companies led the healthcare IT industry in terms of “net hospital wins” from December 2015 to December 2016, according to data compiled by Robert W. Baird & Co. analysts. That means the three firms are outpacing the competition when it comes to adding new hospital customers and keeping de-installations to a minimum.

Gregory Kiray is an internal medicine doctor at Indiana University Health, which has used … Next Page »

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