It pays to keep patients happy, and many certified patient portal vendors just aren’t cutting it. While this is mostly the result of software vendors focusing solely on Meaningful Use/MACRA requirements, it also has to do with vendors not investing sufficient resources in research and development (R&D), and in simply making band-aid fixes instead of substantial product improvements.
It is no secret that EHR companies are tight on R&D resources, and very few put patient portals as a priority. In fact, of the hundreds of EHR companies in the market, only a handful have adequately invested in the development of a patient portal. As a result of this, EHR companies are struggling on a daily basis to meet their clients’ patient portal needs.
This has left many organizations with inadequate portal solutions that are incapable of delivering sustainable value to the organization in the long-term. In some cases, this is happening less than a year after the initial portal investment. Because of this, the patient portal replacement market has taken off and third party patient portal vendors have become major players.
Why a Bad Portal Drives Change (But a Bad EHR Doesn’t)
Whereas with the EHR market a few providers bemoaning software functionality may not have been enough for an organization to undertake the complex job of switching EHR vendors, the patient portal market is different in that it is highly patient-driven. In fact, one of the main factors driving organizations to replace their patient portals is the inability of current solutions to deliver a positive patient experience for even the most basic patient portal functions.
“We’re now seeing health organizations seeking a second replacement patient portal, just a few years after having implemented their first,” says John Deutsch, Founder of Bridge Patient Portal. “This is something we never saw in the EHR software market.”
While many systems easily fulfill Meaningful Use/MACRA requirements, their user interfaces are not adequately tested and core functionality is missing. So as soon as patients actually start using the portal, complaints start coming in. When it comes to online healthcare portals, the most common grievances from patients typically include:
- Core features that simply do not work
- Platforms that are not mobile-friendly
- Platforms that only work on some browsers (e.g. outdated versions of IE)
- Patient registration is difficult and oftentimes impossible without staff intervention
- Lack of pertinent data from the EHR
In an example patient population of 100,000, if even 1 percent of patients actively use the portal and find issues with it, that’s 1,000 users that are complaining – and that is enough to drive change.
Smaller Patient Portal Companies Becoming Big Market Players
Like it happened with the EHR replacement market, inferior products are quickly getting weeded out. Similarly, smaller up-and-coming third party patient portal vendors are getting acquired by major EHR vendors – oftentimes, in order to replace the EHR’s own underperforming patient portal product.
In the end, vendors that have invested in the necessary R&D will ultimately see the biggest payoff in the replacement portal market. Epic, Greenway Health, eClinicalWorks and athenahealth all succeeded in the replacement EHR market and have established themselves as dominant industry players. Patient portal companies who take the same approach will likely see similar results, as health organizations are starting to look past Meaningful Use/MACRA and towards technologies that provide more innovative patient engagement and care management solutions.