While patient portals are not new, getting patients to use them is a common challenge. Whether your practice has had a patient portal in place for years or months, getting your patients to use it is what matters most. The importance is magnified as Meaningful Use stage 2 requires that 5% of patients must actively use the patient portal. Getting your patients to use the patient portal isn’t impossible. In fact, patients want to use your patient portal. They are demanding access to their health information and want to take charge of their health. It is up to you to teach them how to do it.
Here are a few tips to help you help your patients and your practice with patient portal adoption.
1) Appoint a portal leader/champion
- Don’t have a committee. Instead, appoint one person to understand what patients need from the portal and then make it happen.
- The portal leader should also be the go-to person for any question that a staff member has about the portal. Have the portal leader create a quick cheat sheet or FAQs on the patient portal so that staff members can answer patient questions quickly.
- Have the portal leader promote the portal often. So many times what starts out as a successful implementation of something new will fall off after 4-5 months due to a lack of motivation. The portal champion should be held responsible for keeping the patient portal morale up and making sure staff members take responsibility for helping every patient get on the portal.
2) Turn physicians into portal advocates
- Make sure physicians have good attitudes and adoption.
- Have providers drive the medical responses to questions via the patient portal on a timely basis.
- Providers should promote the portal as the preferred way of sending information to patients.
3) Have a portal with patient friendly features
- Allow patients to request prescription refills, pay bills, and schedule appointments online.
- Provider relevant patient education
- If your patient portal is difficult to navigate, you may want to consider other options for your practice. A portal that is difficult to use will discourage patients from using it.
- If a patient calls in to request a refill remind them that they can request the refill online.
4) Leverage every patient contact to promote portal use
- Replace your hold music with a message promoting the portal as an alternative to the phone.
- Place a computer, tablet, or kiosk in the waiting room if possible so patients can register while they are in the office.
- Advertise your portal in all printed publications including statements, newsletters, brochures, etc.
- Make sure your patient portal is easy to access from the homepage of your practice’s website. Making the portal link easy to find will only help your patients see the value and convenience it offers.
The Role of the Patient Portal in Meaningful Use Stage 2
Patient portals help physicians meet two core measures of Stage 2. Core measure #7 is to provide patients the ability to view online, download and transmit their health information within four business days of the information being available to the EP.
Core measure #17 will also help eligible providers meet Stage 2. Core measure #17 requires the use of secure electronic messaging to communicate with patients on relevant health information. This electronic message could be email or the electronic messaging function of a PHR, an online patient portal, or any other electronic means.
Patient Portal Features Patients Want
Here are a few features that your patients want available in the patient portal.
- Family access
- Online patient education materials
- Ask questions
- Account review and bill pay functions
- Appointment scheduling
- Request referrals
- Access to test results, medications, allergies, and immunizations
- Secure messaging between patients and providers
- Review of personal health record (PHR)
- Slow response time
- Portals that won’t work with certain browsers
- Critical information hard to find
- Not user friendly
- Is not integrated with your EMR and PM software