There are a lot of buzzwords being thrown around in hospitals, physician practices and medical facilities across the United States, and it can be easy for patients to get confused about which terms matter and what they mean. With federal programs incentivizing healthcare providers for engaging patients in their health, two terms that caregivers are using a lot lately are “personal health record” and “patient portal” – both extremely relevant to patients and crucial for getting them involved in decisions about their health. But what does each one mean?
Personal Health Record (PHR)
A PHR is an electronic record of an individual’s health information that can draw information from various sources. This can include data obtained by the patient (weight, height, current medications, emergency contact information and family medical history), as well as data obtained from providers (diagnoses, immunizations and lab results).
In stark contrast to an electronic health record (EHR), which contains data entered and controlled by a healthcare provider, many PHRs are managed primarily by the patient. The patient can share the data with a physician if they choose to, but they are not required to. This type of PHR is referred to as “standalone.”
The other type of personal health record, which is slowly becoming more common, connects to a healthcare organization’s EHR system so that both the patient and their provider can access and update data contained within the record, resulting in a more accurate and comprehensive medical record.
An online patient portal is a tool that connects to a healthcare organization’s electronic health record software. It allows patients to view certain portions of their medical record, similar to a PHR. However, unlike a PHR, patients cannot always make changes to their record. Instead, they can view data such as clinical summaries and test results and benefit from features such as:
- Secure electronic messaging
- Appointment scheduling
- Prescription refill request
- Online bill pay
Though patient portals appear to be more comprehensive resources than patient-maintained PHRs, a major downside is that they do not contain data from all of a patient’s physicians. In fact, each healthcare group will have their own portal with data pulled from that organization’s own EHR.
Do your providers use a patient portal or EHR-connected PHR? Do you maintain your own personal health record? Which method do you prefer?
Healthcare debt collection is a serious problem throughout the country, and Arizona residents are not exempt from the financial hardships brought about by medical debt. In fact, a study by University of Arizona researchers found that residents of the Grand Canyon State owed more than $2.4 billion in medical bills in 2008. What’s more, one in four surveyed adults were either paying healthcare-related debts or had had problems paying a medical bill in the last year.
Who is most affected by medical debt?
Although medical debt seems to affect Arizona residents in different age groups and economic classes, middle-aged Arizonans with low to moderate incomes have the highest rate of debt. Following is a breakdown by age group of adults who were paying off medical bills at the time of the survey:
• Ages 18-29: 26 percent
• Ages 30-39: 34 percent
• Ages 40-49: 32 percent
• Ages 50-64: 24 percent
Families with children are also greatly affected, especially those headed by couples or single females. In fact, these households are 60 percent more likely to have medical debt than those headed by a single male or those without children.
How does Arizona compare to the rest of the country?
Arizonans are, on the whole, better off when it comes to medical debt than the average American. A national survey of healthcare debt collection found that 65 percent of Americans with medical bills had problems paying for other necessities. In Arizona, however, only 39 percent of adults with medical debt reported being unable to pay for basic necessities.
What can healthcare organizations do to collect on unpaid debts?
Partnering with a medical collection agency whose employees are well-trained in collecting from patients is one way that healthcare professionals can increase collections. For example, instead of overwhelming patients by demanding full payment, medical collection agencies often work with patients to set up manageable payment plans. This not only brings in money for the healthcare facility, but it helps patients pay down their debts.
From EHR law to health insurance reform, big changes are happening in healthcare and not everyone is in agreement about the direction those changes are taking. More recently, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which President Obama signed into law in 2010, has been topic of conversation, as people try to discern the differences between the so-called Obamacare law and a similar healthcare plan Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts four years earlier.
In an article posted on this blog last month by Health News Watch, some of the main parts of the ACA were broken down and explained more simply. Here, I’ll talk about some of the ways the two health plans differ – which, as it turns out, is only slightly.
Is there a penalty for not buying insurance? Both plans have penalties in place for those who choose not to purchase insurance. Under Obamacare, the yearly minimum would be just under $700. Meanwhile, the yearly minimum for Romneycare is approximately $1,200.
Are employers penalized for not providing insurance? The ACA penalizes companies with more than 50 employees, while the Massachusetts plan does so for companies with more than 11 employees. The actually penalty per employee would be $2,000 and $295, respectively.
Do insurance companies have to cover pre-existing conditions? Both plans require coverage of pre-existing illnesses; however, the Massachusetts plan allows insurers to limit coverage of certain conditions to six months.
Until what age can children stay on their parents’ insurance plan? Both Romneycare and Obamacare allow children to remain covered by their parents’ insurance until the age of 26. The difference with Romneycare is that if a child has filed taxes on their own (not as a dependent) for at least two years, even if they are under 26, they must purchase their own insurance plan.
How are the plans funded? Romneycare is funded in large part by the federal government, which made it possible for the state not to raise taxes for residents. Obamacare, on the other hand, is a federal program, and funding for the health plan must come from new taxes. This includes a tax on tanning salons, some medical devices, and certain premium health plans.
The different changes being implemented in the healthcare industry can be confusing. With the help of healthcare professionals and EHR law experts, patients can learn more about those changes, including how they are affecting care delivery, access to medical treatment, and cost of care. They can also learn about technologies such as patient portals that can benefit doctors and patients.
e-Prescribing, or eRx, is the new method doctors use to submit your prescriptions to payers and pharmacies. Now streamlined into a click of one button, electronic prescription submission replaced a procedure that once required a ream of copy paper and a perpetually busy fax line is Proven to reduce dosage and interpretation errors, e-Prescribing is now required for all certified EMR software that your doctor implements.
As a patient, you may not be aware how e-Prescribing benefits you, but it indeed does. From saving your life to saving time in line at the pharmacy, your doctor’s use of electronic prescriptions increases the quality of care you receive.
Safety First – The number one benefit patients receive from e-Prescribing is the protection from fatal dosage errors. Electronic prescription writing eliminates errors made in dosage calculations and prevents the names of medications from being misread by the pharmacy from doctors’ notoriously sloppy handwriting. Integrated with an EMR, you doctor can check for drug possible adverse reactions from allergies and other medications.
Your Past Meets Your Present – e-Prescribing lists all your medications from the past and present for your doctor to access. Doctors can utilize the informed clinical decision support of EMR based on comparing your medication list with your past treatment notes to devise a new or continued course of treatment.
Saves Time – Prescriptions get filled quicker through e-Prescribing. After your doctor checks for interactions and allergies, they submit the prescription to the payer to check eligibility of coverage and then submit it to the pharmacy. Without having to sit through dial-through menus or wait to speak to a pharmacist, e-Prescribing shaves minutes to hours off of the prescription process, meaning you get your medication faster.
Better Health! – Patients whose doctors use electronic prescribing are more likely to take their medications than those who do not have an eRx system. Did you know that a whopping 20% of paper prescriptions go unfilled? Patients either lose the paper script or don’t take it to the pharmacy because it’s too much of a hassle. e-Prescribing eliminates the patient from the submission process; all they have to do is pick it up. By correctly following the doctor’s recommended course of treatment, you can play an active role in improving the quality of care you receive and the overall quality of your health.
Human error in medicine in intolerable and completely unacceptable, according to Alexandra Godfrey, MS, PA-C, contributor to the journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA)., a peer-reviewed clinical journal.
Godfrey explains that while all medical professionals do everything possible to avoid errors, we should recognize that human error is unavoidable. In fact, there are many factors that can lead to error that are very common in the healthcare environment, such as constant interruption, shift work, disrupted sleep patterns, unique situations, volatile situations, diagnostic uncertainty, and cognitive overload.
EMR software and systems are designed to make the many routine and mindless tasks taken care of by a computer, instead of the human brain that could be better used in other areas. Electronic medical records in the emergency healthcare environment can significantly help medical staff take their focus off small tasks so that they can give more attention to the medical emergencies. For example, physicians can request serial NMTS instantly and begin diagnoses order sets for serious conditions that need to be handled immediately.
An emergency room is a very difficult and intense environment that demands assiduous and painstakingly close attention to detail and rapid and immediate responses. There are certain things that are better left to computer, such as patient health record organization and filing, and diagnostic orders. Electronic medical record systems can facilitate and streamline processes and leave medical staff more available to focus on the patient care.