How useful are patient portals for hospitals in rural areas? Public Deposited

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  • February 25, 2020
  • Lorenz, Eva
    • Affiliation: Gillings School of Global Public Health, Public Health Leadership Program
  • Electronic medical records (EMR) are a relatively new development and the move away from paper records is incentivized by allocating funds to hospitals who undertake this change. In part, the funds are allocated as part of Meaningful Use, which also sets quantitative goals for hospitals in conjunction with the move towards EMR. Hospitals in poor, rural areas of North Carolina with a high percentage of Medicaid patients must meet Meaningful Use requirements in order to receive maximum funding under these federal guidelines. As part of my internship, I focused on the usage of the patient portal at Halifax Regional Medical Center (HRMC), a hospital in one of the poorest counties in North Carolina. The results indicated that the poor and aging population in the area was ill prepared to handle electronic communications with providers through a portal, yet HRMC would still be subject to the requirement under the proposed MU Stage 3 to enroll 25% of patients in the portal. While these numbers seem reasonable for counties with a highly educated workforce and availability of high education institutions, Halifax County is struggling to educate adults about computer usage and use of email as a means of secure communication. In addition, HRMC is competing with primary care practices, where many patients regular visit physicians, for portal usage since some physicians outsource lab testing to HRMC, but will use their own portal to make the results available to patients. HRMC is used as an example of the effort undertaken by rural hospitals in poor counties within North Carolina to meet Meaningful Use Requirements; this effort is not only taking up significant resources in developing and administrating the portal, but also effort in getting patients to enroll in the portal and providing sufficient security for the patient data housed in the portal. This paper attempts to determine how useful resources spent towards enrolling patients in portals are for rural hospitals and whether the funds spent on a portal may not be better used towards getting the population ready for the use of a portal and securing the information in the portal. Using studies about what prerequisites must be met for an effective use of a patient portal, this paper aims at determining whether portal usage should be priority for rural hospitals. Or whether funds should be better spent on securing EMR and delay portal usage in favor of securing electronic records first.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Track: Leadership
  • Paper type: Other
  • Ramaswamy, Rohit
  • Gordon, Robert
  • Master of Public Health
Academic concentration
  • Public Health
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2017
Deposit record
  • 04dde1ed-d3a1-4ce6-bc4e-3820038b06bd

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