GE Centricity Portal Adds HIE, SMS Support

GE has released an update to its Centricity Patient Online portal to incorporate SMS texting between patients and doctors, as well as access to health information exchanges.

GE Healthcare has rolled out the 13th version of its Centricity Patient Online portal. This latest incarnation gives patients the ability to send text messages to their doctors, pay bills and view their health information online.

With the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services preparing to release Stage 2 requirements for meaningful use of electronic health records, the patient engagement features of the portal can help providers meet this criteria, according to GE.

Using Patient Online 13, patients can schedule appointments and fill out forms electronically before visiting a doctor's office. The product allows patients to schedule appointments in real time.

"It's really designed to extend the product workflow to the patient," David Rowe, global director of consumer product marketing at GE Healthcare IT, told eWEEK.

The new version of Patient Online, which GE announced Feb. 2, is primarily for large hospitals' workflows. The company first launched the portal in 2000. GE has a similar product called Centricity Patient Portal for midsize practices.

Patient Online integrates with the Centricity Business revenue cycle management application and is compatible with any "standards-based" electronic health record (EHR) platform.

"We look forward to helping our customers reduce costs, increase access and enhance the quality of care they're able to provide their patients," Michael Friguletto, vice president and general manager of GE Healthcare IT, said in a statement.

The portal allows hospitals and doctors' practices to provide patients with 24-hour access to data and interaction with providers.

Due to customer demand, GE added Short Message Service (SMS) texting and alerts in version 13. GE also integrated optimization for mobile browsers in the new version.

The new version also adds bill-payment features for doctors and patients to know that payments have been reflected in balances in a timely manner, said Rowe.

A built-in application called Primetime Instant Medical History allows health care organizations to design their own forms. It also enables patients to enter data in Patient Online prior to an office visit.

"A piece of [Patient Online] 13 that makes it different is the use of smart forms and a forms engine so clinics can customize forms in any way they want," said Rowe. "They actually reach into the chart and pre-populate to eliminate self-rendering."

In addition, GE has added the ability for patients to designate proxies and family members who can see their data. The software allows patients to turn off this sharing of data "on the fly," said Rowe.

Patient portals connected to health information exchanges (HIEs) are the future of electronic health record applications, said Rowe.

"What we've done here is to open up the exchange to a tethered patient portal, giving patient access to data as long as data is addressable on the exchange," said Rowe.

Using scheduling features in a portal such as Patient Online could allow health care providers to reduce the amount of patients that fail to show up for appointments.

Recently, GE announced that it would discontinue Centricity Advance, its EHR application for small practices.

GE plans to demonstrate the revamped Patient Online portal at the HIMSS12 health care IT conference in Las Vegas from Feb. 20-24.