5 Steps to Maximize Your Patient Portal and Boost Practice Efficiency
by G. Levy; Medical Economics; 10/1/14
Patient service and satisfaction is important to today’s healthcare market. Use of an individual portal or secure electronic communications is an excellent way to boost patient engagement and accountability, achieve positive patient satisfaction, improve practice efficiency, and minimize the consequences associated using the lack of interoperability between electronic health record (EHR) systems at other practices, hospital systems and healthcare services.
If your patients resist utilizing a well-designed patient portal or electronic communication service, the challenge may be with your practice’s process. Patients with all the most complicated chronic conditions who benefit probably the most from improved communications and entry to information are also the ones who may be expected to train on a number of other portals for multiple providers, hospitals, pharmacies, payers and more.
The following suggestions are aiimed at ensuring that a practice achieves maximum patient benefits through portal use.
1. Meet patient priorities
To achieve measurable, beneficial patient portal use, it is vital that patients experience more easily in gaining access to the health information they need through the portal.
Building a portal that patients will discover useful which meets their demands requires three components. Patients should be able to:
request a service with the portal (make an appointment, refill a prescription, have a referral),
obtain details about their health, either by asking their physician a question or reviewing information, and
submit information or data that the practice requests.
Evaluate portal use from a patient’s perspective through into consideration these three priorities. The bottom line is when patients experience a benefit, they're going to want to keep using the portal.
Both the individual and practice helps you to save time if the sufferer is in a position to enter information directly into the portal prior to his or her appointment.
Allowing patients to add or change their health information in a way that enables the info to be imported to the EHR as discrete data will provide significant time and patient care management benefits to the practice. Allow patients to submit their questions via email. The practice staff should follow-up these requests via email, otherwise the individual might believe that calling a cubicle is a more direct technique of communication. For those situations when an e-mail response isn't appropriate, send a contact requesting a time when the sufferer will be offered to to discuss the matter further. Require patient questions to get “categorized” in order that emails could possibly be efficiently directed on the designated employee.
Allow patients to check medical information (i.e. test results, diagnostic reports, problem lists, medication list, progress notes, health maintenance summaries) and acquire copies of the data that is easily understood by your patients or their designated loved ones. For example, blood lab values for one date of service should be printed on no more than three pages, and problem and medication lists ought to be summarized succinctly.
Ideally, patients will be permitted to incorporate or change their health information in a manner that allows the information to be imported into the EHR as discrete data. This provides significant serious amounts of patient care management benefits for the practice.
Hospital admissions and hospital visits are key events for most patients. Encourage patients to report these events in the patient portal, and still provide an easy selection option in the event the portal is accessed. Doing so should create an alert for the practice to create a personal follow-up while using patient while also allowing the practice to contact the hospital for even more information.
Next: Integrating the portal into the practice workflow
2. Integrate the portal into practice workflow
Prior to implementing the portal, verify that this practice workflow will effectively interface with the portal.
For example, assign staff to react promptly to email inquiries, upload patient information in to the portal on a timely basis if the EHR just isn't capable of automatically linking the knowledge, and monitor the status of the appointment schedule. Delays in answering patients over your patient portal is just one of the most effective ways to discourage patients while using the service. It will defeat one of the primary reasons patients utilize the portal: to be able to connect directly with their physician and other provider.
One in the key ways to incorporate portal use in the routine practice workflow is to simply use it. For example, follow-up patient phone calls with a message that has the link to the sufferer portal. When the person opens the hyperlink, they will see the provided follow-up information, that may include upcoming scheduled appointments, forms being completed for new patient visit, test results, or health maintenance information discussed during phone call.
3. Identify patients that will most benefit from portal use
Examine your patient panel and identify the patients who can most reap the benefits of communication with the practice through the portal.
These patients can include those who:
are receiving care for chronic conditions;
are receiving significant testing and/or concurrent care business specialists;
are included in self monitoring and reporting of health status;
have a spouse, children or perhaps a care taker assisting with their care management;
are undergoing complicated on-going treatment including chemotherapy;
or are inside the recovery process related to significant trauma or extensive treatment.
Personally contact these patients and ask to spend time together or their caretaker to talk about portal use. Initially this could seem time-consuming, but when done correctly, the practice benefits are significant and outweigh the expense of time spent introducing the portal.
Next: Promote the portal during patient encounters
4. Promote the portal
Every encounter your practice has with an individual should include outreach on using the sufferer portal. To do this, your front-office staff and providers must be on a single page. It’s crucial that every employee who discusses the portal with patients shares a consistent message. It can be beneficial to develop a script of important points for employees that go over the benefits of while using the portal.
It’s critical to include physicians and also other clinical providers in this effort, since their use with the portal will probably be key to obtaining patient buy-in.
Practices should designate at least one employee who is available to meet one- on-one with a patient to set up a portal account and help patients navigate and understand the site’s features.
Tips to advertise the portal include:
Using It: Incorporate portal use into routine practice workflow. Develop a “Use Your Portal” script for employees in order that patients receive consistent verbal messaging about the benefits of using the portal. Have noticeably available employee(s) inside practice who can work one-on-one which has a patient to sign up or answer any queries about interacting through the portal.
Place visually attractive notices around any office (at check-in, check-out, exam rooms, reception areas) that promote the portal. Include mention of portal in all new patient information materials. Include mailer inserts with statements along with other paper communications on the patient.
When ending up in patients and/or caretakers, highlight the main advantages of using the portal. Emphasizing the benefits to the caretaker is quite helpful in the practices with an older patient population or when providing extensive treatments.
5. Evaluate portal use and modify practice operations
The alternative is, once these efforts to integrate the sufferer potal into the workflow are underway, identify patients who will most take advantage of the service and promotion, is always to step back and evaluate how your efforts are working.
Have people outside the practice test the portal’s navigation to make sure it is intuitive and easy to use for patients old and young, healthy or being affected by serious conditions. Compare the portal system navigation with other patient e- Information systems for payers and hospital systems, and earn changes when needed.
Physicians who've questions about whether their portal can be customized for a certain function should contact their EHR vendor.