In news we have not heard of in some time (at least publicly), patient portals are back in the headlines.

This is primarily because the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) has released a new patient portal toolkit for health information management professionals. The toolkit provides guidance on related topics, the latest regulatory requirements, opportunities and challenges, for their use.

According to FierceEMR, "issues addressed include how to personalize portals to increase patient engagement, how patients can access a portal via mobile devices and how to incorporate information from wearables." Thus, the AHIMA toolkit includes recommended practices for selection and implementation of a portal, guidance on employee and patient training, a sample registration form and sample agreement.

In the early days of the decade, patient portals were highly considered to be a potential savior for patient engagement — getting more people more heavily involved in their own care. But the rhetoric of the patient engagement movement has lessened a bit and reduced the buzz surrounding it quite a bit.

With the move to a patient-centered care model, the arguments for the benefit of patient portals have not changed since the technology was introduced to the market: Patient portals give patients more access to their health records and greater control over their healthcare decisions.

"We're witnessing a profound shift in the level of engagement patients have with their own healthcare," AHIMA CEO Lynne Thomas Gordon, MBA, RHIA, CAE, FACHE, FAHIMA, said in a statement. "When patients have more access to their health information, they can make more informed decisions. Patient portals are a critical component in connecting patients with their health data. With this toolkit, AHIMA provides guidance for the healthcare community on how to provide access while ensuring the information is accurate, private and secure."

As technology continues to advance, patient portals must evolve to meet patient and provider expectations. And while the patient portals continue to maintain a heartbeat in the U.S., the global prevalence of the technology is not expected to gain much ground, according to a new report on their viability.

Various security concerns and low awareness in developing countries inhibits the growth of this market to a certain extent. Perhaps this is of no concern for practices and providers who only serve patients in the U.S., but the news does point to a larger problem for the technology. Without global demand, a saturated market in the U.S. likely will lead to irrelevance at a time when "patient engagement" and even interoperability efforts are still trying to find their way.

Nevertheless, AHIMA provides guidance for providers utilizing the technology. And while vendors and the healthcare community continue to invest in the technology for obvious reasons meaningful use, for example other technologies, like telemedicine, are currently the Belle of the ball.

That said, the AHIMA toolkit provides specific guidance on:

  • the capability to use portals to provide remote healthcare services for nonacute care conditions
  • the ability to personalize the patient portal experience for increased patient engagement
  • patients' ability to access their health information on mobile devices
  • inclusion of patient-generated health data from wearable technology devices