Patient portals as a way of communicating with and to patients is now becoming more popular with patients and physicians. While patient portals require no small amount of IT expertise and over-sight to build and maintain; once established, they provide a platform for patient/practice communication.
The first step to success with patient portals is communication with patient on how to use and what they can expect from use. This communication is vital. How a patient perceives patient portals and their initial success in using will set the stage for a successful implementation and use of the patient portal.
Included in patient portal information should be medical history, visit summaries, access to lab results, appointment capabilities, and secure email from provider to patient.
A patient can at their convenience log into patient portal and receive follow-up information from provider on lab results, view those results, look at pending appointments, make appointments, ask routine questions via email, look at statements on line, make payments, and get other routine information that previously required a phone call.
Each time a patient calls the practice for information they could receive via the patient portal; the patient should be reminded that the information they have requested is available on the portal. Of course, not all patients will or can utilize….but most patients will comply with expectations if initial experience successful.
Setting up the portal in a logical and easy to follow menu based way is a key to success. This is true not only for the patient, but also for the provider. If the providers experience with using the portal is logical and saves them time, they will use. If they find it cumbersome, difficult and takes too much time, they will not use. It’s that simple.
Planning how the portal will look, how it will be populated, how implementation will be initiated and how both providers and patients will experience the value it will bring to practice is critical. Poor planning always leads to a poor experience.
Here are some things you can do to create success with the patient portal:
- Celebrate small wins – you won’t have full implementation overnight, so be aware when things go right and be positive about them with provider and patients.
- Speak up about problems – while no one wants to be the one to point out problems or be seen as a nay sayer, not speaking up about issues will actually create more problems in the long run. If you see something is not working…..talk about it. Try to achieve resolution. Don’t allow it to fester into something out of control.
- Even though implementing technology, don’t forget to communicate – technology is a way to increase efficiency, cut costs and time and increase revenue. It will not replace, nor should it, communication. Communicate each day with staff, providers and patients on how patient portal working, how to make it better, what staff can do to keep a positive attitude with patients just learning to use.
- Remember your primary mission – to deliver quality healthcare to patients who need it. We often get sidetracked by technology and fail to keep in front of us the value that technology brings to our overall mission.
Technology is a tool….a useful And productive tool. An efficient patient portal will bring value and resources to your practice and patients. Design it well……implement it carefully, use it as a tool. Remember we now live in a technology savvy world and patients are beginning to expect this type of communication with their doctors!