Patient Portals and Direct Messaging, how do they affect me?

By Dr. Rod Snow,

The OOA has been receiving questions concerning “practice portals” of Electronic Medical Records versus “patient portals”, along with some confusion around direct messaging.  Is there a difference with these things and how do they affect me?  There may be some minor differences between each EMR, but here is some information on these terms that may be helpful:

There is a difference between the “practice portal” and the “patient portal”.

  1. The practice portal is the practice’s command center. It is where many of the essential functions of the EMR are set-up.  It is also where employees can message each other.  It has the “inbox” messages received from patients and from other doctor’s offices (called DIRECT messaging) because they are located on an encrypted server.
  2. The patient portal is a “subset” of the practice portal. This is where patients can log in and see some of their exam information. They will see the clinical summaries (CCD’s) that the doctor has created for that patient.  The patient can use this portal to send a message to the doctor and possibly schedule appointments through this portal.

“DIRECT” messaging is different than typical email.  Doctor to doctor communications via email should always be through “DIRECT”.  That is because DIRECT is associated with the doctor’s practice portal and will then be encrypted.

Important:  If a doctor uses private email to discuss health concerns, that is a HIPAA privacy violation as that information is not encrypted!

Doctors can exchange patient information through the DIRECT messaging account, which goes directly to the practice portal which is automatically encrypted for privacy.  Additionally, patients can email through the patient portal, which will connect to the practice portal where it will be viewed by the doctor.  It also is automatically encrypted.

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