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2/15/2012
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GE Rolls Out Upgraded Online Patient Portal

Centricity Patient Online 13 adds mobile connectivity to portal so patients can schedule appointments, pay bills, and manage other aspects of their healthcare from a mobile device.

Health IT On Display: HIMSS12 Preview
Health IT On Display: HIMSS12 Preview
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GE Healthcare has introduced Centricity Patient Online 13, the latest version of its patient portal platform. The portal comes with new features that include mobile connectivity to allow patients to connect with their healthcare providers through their mobile device to schedule appointments, pay bills, manage health information, complete pre-visit forms, and respond to alerts and reminders sent by the practice.

"Mobile devices are the primary vehicle of communication for a growing percentage of patients," David Rowe, general manager, GE Healthcare IT, told InformationWeek Healthcare. "Version 13 enables patients to opt to receive text alerts and other notifications from Patient Online to a mobile device."

Centricity Patient Online is tailored to the needs of healthcare enterprises such as academic medical centers, large clinics, and integrated delivery networks (IDNs) that typically serve hundreds of thousands of patients. The application serves as the patient portal module that supports clinical, administrative and financial workflows from GE Healthcare's enterprise applications, including Centricity EMR, Centricity Enterprise, and Centricity Business.

"We are definitely seeing a trend in 2012 where vendors like GE are offering additional patient functionality," Judy Hanover, research director at IDC Health Insights, told InformationWeek Healthcare.

[ Is it time to re-engineer your clinical decision support system? See 10 Innovative Clinical Decision Support Programs. ]

Hanover said that the GE patient portal "engages patients to make them more responsible for their own health and helps physicians take on accountability" in the emerging accountable care environment.

Hanover also said that although she has not seen a demonstration of Centricity Patient Online 13, GE Healthcare's challenge is to provide a product that is easy to use, will help physicians monitor their patients better, and engages patients in a way that will help them contribute to the management of their care.

"Generally, the criteria for success of tools like Centricity Patient Online 13 will be whether the platform offers more information to the patient which will make the tool more interesting and more engaging, so that the patient is more likely to use it and come back to use it again," Hanover observed.

Besides mobile connectivity, Centricity Patient Online 13, which is a client-server platform, has other features that the company says will improve interactions between patients and their health organizations, including:

-- Enhanced workflow and messaging. The e-form engine allows customers to create "smarter" patient forms that include clinical content that reduces data entry for the patient and improves the quality of the information. For example, medication lists and allergies can be embedded within the form so the patient can confirm the details or submit any changes. After the patient submits the form, the doctor can email the patient back with any requests for clarifications.

-- Family and proxy access. Patients can grant access to their medical records to a proxy. In Version 13, patients also can audit who has accessed their information, when it was accessed, and what information was viewed. And they can directly remove a proxy user's access online. This simplifies and strengthens procedures for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) complaint access and auditing.

-- Health Information Exchange (HIE) connectivity. Patient Online 13 connects directly to any standards-based health information exchange. This allows customers to grant patients access to documents on an HIE from multiple electronic medical record systems from disparate vendors. Patients can download their information, such as continuity-of care documents, and upload their own documents to the HIEs.

-- Configurability. The user interface is configurable to support varying patient profiles and skills. Healthcare organizations can customize the site to meet the specific needs of patient populations. For example, it can designate a role for patients and proxy users. Such a system would recognize the user's role and display the links appropriate to that user.

At Carolinas Physician Network (CPN), where the implementation of Patient Online's direct scheduling features has reduced the network's no-show rate to 1% for appointments directly scheduled through the portal, Denise Cuddeback, CPN's assistant vice president, said the new release will improve clinical workflows.

GE Healthcare officials said Patient Online 13 is available for purchase now and installations can be scheduled this month. Customers of Patient Online pay a one-time software license, and an annual maintenance fee.

Healthcare providers must collect all sorts of performance data to meet emerging standards. The new Pay For Performance issue of InformationWeek Healthcare delves into the huge task ahead. Also in this issue: Why personal health records have flopped. (Free registration required.)

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