• Secured Messaging in Patient Portal: Improving Efficiencies in Patient-Provider Communication

      Pace, Charlette A.; Hoffman, Ann G. (2020-05)
      Problem: Patient portals are an easily accessible health care application, allowing patients and parents/caregivers 24/7 access to their health information and the ability to engage with their providers through asynchronous communication. Emailing patients is not a reliable form of communication if personal health information is discussed. Secure messaging within the patient portal is an appropriate substitute for emails as it fulfills are the requirements of the HIPAA Security Rule without compromising the conveniences of mobile technology or security Purpose : The purpose of this quality improvement project was to improve enrollment and patient engagement in the patient portal to increase the use of secure messaging amongst cardiology patients and providers (primary cardiology, electrophysiology, and adult congenital). Methods : To increase the enrollment of portal users by patients techniques were implemented in the clinic to include: patients informed about the portal at the front desk and with the nursing staff; each patient visit focused attention on the secure messaging feature; additionally, patients over the age of 13 were given the option to self-enroll on iPads in the clinic. Providers were required to complete an online module related to secure messaging. Results : The Patient Engagement Team tracked the number of messages sent, received, and other portal related statistics for the pediatric cardiology clinic for 12 weeks before the intervention and 12-week post-implementation. These messages were collected and analyzed. Pre-implementation, the pediatric cardiology department received an average of 60 messages and sent an average of 39 messages back to patients or other providers. During the implementation period, the messages received increased to 102 per month, and messages sent by our staff also increased to 66 messages per month. Significant barriers during implementation included parent/caregiver delays receiving the portal enrollment email notification and the portal closing for a month during execution. Conclusion: Despite limitations, messaging increased by near 60 percent for inbound and outbound messages. Patient-provider secure messaging communication is a viable and effective method for non-urgent communication between patients and providers. A renewed focus on the importance of secure patient communication is highlighted in this patient improvement initiative. Sustainability of messaging within the portal use will require time, consistency, and support from the entire cardiology team, including cardiologists.