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Beauty Is In the Portal of the Beholder…Or Is It?

I was intrigued to review the entries for the New York eHealth Collaborative Portal Contest. Why would a physician be interested in patient portal design anyway? There are numerous reasons. First of all, I am fascinated by smart, eye-catching designs. Secondly, I believe that usability is directly related to design and this could significantly further patient engagement, help satisfy Meaningful Use requirements and create a usable personal health record (PHR) for patients as mentioned in my previous blog. So which design will win?

One of the competitors, CEO Christopher Bradley of Mana Health, believes that image based design plays a key role in creating an intuitive, patient centered experience. They have even begun to incorporate patient entered, device entered data (from Fit Bit, for example). This could be a game changer for many patients who want to track their daily fitness and exercise and have it mesh with their PHR. It doesn’t stop here, though. Could we then use predictive analytics to determine whether our activities are actually helping improve our health AND deliver that information to the portal through a series of easy to use icons? I think we can.

There are some drawbacks, however. As Dr. John Halamka, Healthcare CIO of Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, so elegantly stated in the Wall Street Journal, privacy can be of concern. Our Healthcare IT system is still in its infancy and therefore, we have had difficulty parsing out protected health information (PHI) that many patients do not want to share with others, a process called data segmentation. We may be able to graphically capture, collate, trend, predict and make all of the information usable….but at what expense?

So can we create a beautiful, patient friendly, HIPAA compliant portal that really delivers insight and value to patients? I am curious to see who wins this battle in New York. Whoever can combine simplicity, beauty and ease of use with backend integrity will certainly have my vote!

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