The ever-changing healthcare environment has gone through multiple phases of electronic conversion with the introduction of Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH). EMRs have become a household name and most practices now employ e-prescribing along with electronic lab interfaces. Electronic health information exchange offers significant cost savings for the healthcare industry and end consumers, as the processes are streamlined and overall efficiency is improved. “The healthcare industry has come to the realization that there is value in connected care. By integrating activities across the care continuum, the end product ‘care’ can be improved significantly”, says Keith Smith, a health IT consultant.

However, the main purpose of the healthcare structure is to assure longer life spans and healthier patients. To achieve these goals, the healthcare community must be able to undertake the responsibility of promoting preventative care measures whilst ensuring care continuity. Farzad Mostashari, National Coordinator for Health Information Technology explained that the health happens with the patient and not in the doctor’s office. It is integral for patients to be involved in the care process itself. Traditionally, patients could not even view their own health records unless the problem was deemed serious in nature. Health IT is changing that, with the connection between EMRs and Patient Portals, they can now access their health information electronically or share it with their attending providers.

The concept of medical record ownership has evolved simultaneously with health IT and EMR adoption. Patients can now integrate their personal health records (PHR) with the provider EMR hence eradicating the health organization’s monopolistic control over personal health information (PHI). Information is the most powerful tool and that concept only intensifies in healthcare. “A well informed patient is likely to be more cautious and dedicated to recovery. This is why patient education is being promoted this way. Patient Portals have definitely aided the physician’s cause. Quality material can be shared electronically with the patient to enhance the overall experience”, shares a New Jersey based practitioner.
 
Patient engagement is an integral part of the affordable and accountable care structure. With the help of patient portals, patients are always connected to their primary physician or care organization. By requesting appointments, referrals and prescription refills online, patients can look to save both time and cost. The recent developments in mobile health technology and interoperable EMR solutions would only add to the potential benefits of these portals. “We already have mobile apps that can check your vitals and monitor certain ailments. Soon we might even see patients updating their doctors from virtually anywhere in the world”, says one health IT enthusiast.