MU2 – #5 Patient Portals: Key to Value from MU Stage 2

 In Articles, Meaningful Use
Jeanne Chamberlin Director of EMR Consulting

Jeanne Chamberlin
Director of EMR Consulting

Once in a while it’s important to step back from the mind-numbing details of Meaningful Use to refocus on the reasons the government started this program and the opportunities for real value to your practice operations. In Stage 1 (and before the MU program started), Eprescribing was the EHR function that everyone agreed added significant value. For Stage 2, the true added value for most practices will be a robust and well-implemented Patient Portal.

A key objective of MU Stage 2 is to drive patient engagement – helping patients become an active and informed participant in their own health care. Several Stage 2 measures support this goal, but the primary one is:

Patient Electronic Access:  At least 50% of patients seen during the reporting period have online access to their health information within 4 business days, and at least 5% of patients seen must download, view or transmit their health information.

“Health Information” includes the patient’s demographics, problem list, medication list, medication allergies, smoking status, vital signs, procedures, lab test results, care plan fields (including goals and instructions) and known care team members (including patient’s Primary Care Provider). Exceptions include data not available in the provider’s certified EHR system or if the provider believes release of the data would be potentially harmful to the patient.

The patient portal module of certified EHRs provides the mechanism for patients to log in and securely view or download their information. Many vendors are bundling in additional functionality including:

  • online entry or update of the patient’s medical history, allergies, etc., that populates the EHR
  • online appointment requests or allowing patients to select and schedule an open slot
  • email or text reminders for appointments or needed services
  • Rx refill requests
  • email statements and pay online capability

Effective implementation of a patient portal has the potential to dramatically change your operations. Educate your patients to look for their lab results online and avoid time-consuming calls or expensive mailing of normal lab results. Respond to appointment and refill requests on a scheduled basis rather than having nurses and front desk staff interrupted throughout the day with phone calls. Transfer some of the EHR data entry from nurses to patients.

In some cases, vendors will charge additional fees for an upgraded patient portal or for additional functionality beyond that required by MU Stage 2. However the ROI may indeed be high, if you are willing to adapt your operations to take advantage of the opportunity.

Stay tuned for the next Blog Post, where I’ll provide some tips on the effective implementation of your portal along with details on another related MU 2 requirement:  Secure Messaging (5% of patients must send a secure message to their provider).

Visit the CMS Specification Sheet for each Stage 2 Measure here.

Need help unraveling the complexities of Meaningful Use? MSOC Health can help! Contact Jeanne Chamberlin, Director of EMR Consulting at 919-442-2422 or

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