A patient portal is basically an online access point that encourages self-management for patients with long term illnesses or chronic conditions. The healthcare portal enables patients to access information, book appointments and get in touch with practitioners regarding their health whenever they want from the convenience of their home. In fact, if the patient is traveling, they can get their hands-on important details regardless of their geographical location.
Patients can feel free to use the portal through web or they can install the mobile application and use it on their phone. Technical information from resources such as laboratory is turned into layman terms so that it becomes comprehendible by the patients. Patients sign in to the platform with their username and password to keep the information safe. The information on the platform can either be self-reported or the reports can be made by clinicians.
The information that is available on the patient portal usually includes the following things:
- Doctor visit reports
- Lab reports
- Discharge summaries
- Immunization records
- Patient education materials
- Secure email
- Prescription refill ordering
- Information on benefits and coverage
- Self-serve updates of patient information
- Downloadable forms
- Payment processing
Healthcare portals not only make matter very convenient for patients, they establish trust between the patient and the practitioner which goes a long way in instilling trust in the minds of the people getting the services. Imagine if a patient talks to a practitioner whenever he is in minor discomfort, he’d be more than inclined to keep on availing services from him.
Patient portals and Healthcare Policy
To encourage patients to resort to EHRs for instant operations, the USA’s government has set some guidelines for practitioners that they need to abide by, which are better known as the Meaningful Use. Practitioners have the obligation to adopt EHR technology in order to make patient portals and viewing of EHRs available for their patients.
The initial stage of this program set base in 2011 – 2012 with the main requirement being on data capturing and data sharing. The second stage made it customary for at least 50% of the patients to have access to EHR and it was enacted in 2014. Additionally, it was also required that at least 5% of the patients should be able to transmit messages on the portal safely and be able to view and download healthcare information.
Encouraging patients to use the portal takes time but it is surely rewarding
Although it takes a little bit of getting used to, to get patients accustomed to using the patient portal but once they do, they rely on it completely and don’t want to schedule appointments, check prescriptions or analyze reports etc. through conventional ways. This is a win-win situation for the clinic because for the medical staff, it is much easier to communicate with the patient through the portal as it saves valuable time and the conversation can help in real time giving insightful answers to the patients and resolving their queries. Increasing patients’ portal use initially can be a little tricky in some cases. But there are some tips employed by doctors across the world to make sure patients do rely on the portal to get things done. Those tips are given below:
- Market the portal through various mediums such as emails, newsletters, pamphlets, and communication.
- Talk about the benefits the patient portal will have for the patient. Make sure to mention the selling points of the patient portal and also talk about them when you are having a conversation with a patient.
- Follow up with patients that still haven’t signed up on the portal and spend some time asking them the obstacles or the problems that were coming in their way and keeping them from using the portal.
- Make sure to tell your patients that they can still reach out to you via the phone whenever they need. They should know that in cases of emergency they wouldn’t have to go through the process of getting in touch with you via the portal. You would still be accessible via telephonic mediums.
- Introduce an app or a mobile version so that patients don’t have to get to their computers every time they want to use the portal. A mobile version would not only be convenient for the patients, it would also bring great deal of benefits to your practice.
- Talk to your vendor to provide you with material that will enable you to promote your portal and spread awareness about it, in turn brining an influx of users.
Benefits of patient portals
Like discussed above, there are plenty of benefits that patient portals provide patients and practitioners with. Now, lets look into depth the benefits that these portals provide.
- Reduces no shows by patients
One of the most significant benefit that the portals provide is that they reduce the absence of patients from an appointment. The portal not only reminds the patient to attend the appointment, but the practitioner can also stay ensured that the slot he emptied for a particular person wouldn’t be wasted.
- Improves patient engagement
Through a healthcare portal, patients can actively participate in the journey towards achieving better health. Once they are timely informed of all the things that are needed to improve their health, they become more mindful. In case they have any queries, they can easily reach out to the doctor and get it resolved. For practitioners this is quite beneficial as the loyalty of a customer is increased by a tenfold.
- Increased efficiency
Through portals, tedious tasks which take too much time and resources are streamlined. For example, if a patient wants to set an appointment, he no longer has to get in touch with the receptionist or the nurse. He can just do that by going on the healthcare portal. Asking for a refill of medicines has also become as easy as clicking a button.
- Improved communication
Most times, patients need reassurances so they want to stay connected to their doctor. Healthcare portal is a great way to improve communication and instill satisfaction and loyalty in patients.