Patients are becoming more and more involved in their own healthcare decisions. Thanks to high-deductible health insurance plans and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), patients frequently make these important decisions around when and if they will seek health care.
Once patients decide to seek diagnosis or treatment, they are more inquisitive about the ramifications of their physician’s opinion than they used to be. They want to have all of the details, as well as copies of their medical reports, and now more than ever, copies of their medical images. These requests typically add on additional cost and burden for all involved.
Despite the digitization of medical images, it remains distracting and expensive for providers to hand the patient a copy of their image (usually on a CD or DVD) as they check out after their appointment. The actual out of pocket cost for the provider is often $10.00 or more. Often the patient will require a replacement CD either because they lost the original, left it at another physician's office, or the disc becomes damaged. Replacement CDs can make this expense up to six times greater, especially when they require overnight delivery, due to the postage, materials and labor involved.
While CDs are a more efficient medium than the bulky films of the past, most modern computers no longer have built-in CD drives. Physicians or patients trying to view the images on a newer computer may have to buy a separate CD drive or simply won't be able to view them. This reality makes the CD less advantageous than it was several years ago.
Is there an alternative?
An increasing number of patients, especially younger ones, prefer online access to their medical images. Rather than needing to remember to request a CD or DVD when they leave their appointment and then struggling to find a compatible disc drive for their computer, patients can now access their medical images through an online patient portal. No more hassle obtaining and keeping track of a CD with their medical images on it. Instead, patients can view their images on any device with an internet browser, including a tablet or smartphone. Patients can even share their medical images with their general practitioner or specialist as easily and simply as sending an email. Through this patient access system, the patient can send a confidential email to his or her physicians, as required, enabling them secure, HIPAA compliant access without having to deliver a CD.
The benefits are enormous for the patient. For one thing, they don’t have to remember to bring a CD to their next appointment. There is no worry about damaged discs or having to search for a CD drive. It also relieves the burden of storing and keeping track of multiple CDs for future reference. Most importantly, sharing becomes instantaneous, saving valuable time and the expense of creating and delivering a physical disc.
Physicians also benefit greatly. Now the physician can view his or her patient's image prior to the appointment, saving both the physician and patient time. They also don't have to worry about their appointment schedules getting thrown off by patients who lost their discs or forgot to bring them to the appointment. Ultimately, the benefits multiply across the practice.
Free to Providers
An online patient portal not only relieves providers of the cumbersome, hands-on process of burning CDs, but it also alleviates the financial stress on their practice. Pursuant to HIPAA guidelines (45 CFR §164.524), providers can offload the charge for this service to the patient, just as they would with burning CDs. Patients who want online access to their studies can pay a $6.50 one-time fee to unlock access to their images and have this at their disposal for as long as they need it.
Purview Patient Access
Purview provides an online patient access system that providers can make available to their patients. There is no charge to the provider for this service. Patients can pay for their access using their FSA or HSA accounts and in some cases this fee is reimbursed by their health insurance provider. To learn more and hear about a Maryland-based urgent care network's experience using this system, visit Purview's Patient Access page.