Dr. Lori Posk, a newly arrived family practice physician and healthcare information technology expert at Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital, has her work cut out for her.
Posk moved to Vero Beach this summer from Ohio, where she began her Cleveland Clinic career 28 years ago.
In that time she’s held the titles of Medical Director of the Family Health Center and Medical Director for MyChart at the Cleveland Clinic.
MyChart is Cleveland Clinic’s “patient portal” and Posk has been tasked with making the patient portal at Cleveland Clinic’s hospital here a more engaging, useful and more frequently used tool to help patients keep a better tab on their own healthcare.
It is a challenging task.
As Medical Economics says, “patient portals – intended to provide improved engagement and outcomes – have yet to deliver on that promise.”
The American Academy of Family Physicians concurs: “The current state of the art [for patient portals] needs work.”
According to Healthcare Finance, “the concept of the patient portal makes sense in theory. Give people a means of accessing their health information electronically and enable them to stay on top of things like medications and appointments, health history and chart information. In practice, however, patient portals can be problematic.”
Patient portals – like their informational technology cousins, electronic medical records (EMRs) – have failed to garner the widespread usage they were predicted to achieve despite more than $36 billion being invested in them since 2016.
Still, Posk sees the potential of the technology.
She says Cleveland’s MyChart “is an opportunity to help patients to see test results, message their providers, schedule appointments online, see their doctor’s office notes and other preparatory things like getting ready for surgery, submitting questionnaires, updating their meds, allergies and problems list. Those can all be done on a patient portal.”
And the quality of the portal matters. While the number of patients actively using patient portals on a regular basis nationally hovers between 12 percent and 15 percent, Posk says, “at the Cleveland Clinic [in Ohio], it’s right around 45 percent.”
“My ultimate goal,” Posk continues, “is to break down barriers to communication. Communication about test results, communication with your providers and access to care. That’s really the goal. Because if you can achieve those, we’re going to improve the medical care we’re delivering.”
To that end, Posk adds, “sometime next year, we’ll be going on a new electronic medical records system called Epic and the MyChart portal will carry over. So I would look for that sometime in June or later of next year.”
That may be good news. But then again, it might not be.
That’s because here in Vero it’s common for patients to see, for example, a primary care physician at Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital, an ophthalmologist at New Vision, an orthopedist in Sebastian and a urologist with Florida Healthcare Specialists. And unless all those physicians are using the Epic software – and they aren’t – there’s no way to ensure the accuracy or completeness of the portal or EMR information on prescription drugs, health history, procedure results and medical tests.
According to Posk, medical information hardware and software is “getting to a point” where new systems will be able to “electronically interface” with other existing systems, but she quickly adds, “We’re just not there yet.”
What definitely is good news for Posk is that here in Vero she’ll be able to spend more time with her patients than she was able to in Ohio.
Up north she estimates she spent 70 percent of her time on information technology and administrative work and only 30 percent with patients. Here she expects the split will be closer to 50/50 and she smiles broadly when she says that. That smile gets even brighter when she adds, “I am accepting new patients.”
Dr. Lori Posk is a family practice physician at the Cleveland Clinic Indian Ricer Hospital. Her office is at 3450 11th Court, Suite 201 in Vero Beach. The phone number is 772-794-3364.