Essential for Patient Engagement – A patient portal is a key component of moving health care into the business world and treating patients like customers – valued customers who expect certain services and conveniences. Portals provide a two-way mechanism for communications between patients and providers. They also take advantage of technology and allow that engagement to happen when it is convenient –no more working around office hours or lunch breaks to phone and ask a question or schedule an appointment.
Required for Meaningful Use – As a required component for achieving Meaningful Use, it’s not enough to just offer a portal to your patients – you have to get them to use it. Achieving Meaningful Use means practices must have 50% of patients registered on the portal and 5% need to be actively using the technology.
How do you encourage patients to register on your portal…and keep them coming back? We’ve got five easy tips you can start using today!
1. Advertise your portal
- Hang posters or fliers in waiting room, exam room and restrooms
- Have staff wear an “Ask me about our Patient Portal” button to encourage questions
- Add portal address to appointment cards, business cards, letterhead and website
2. Train staff on use/benefits of portal
- Give staff a 2-3 sentence description of the portal and its benefits (called an “elevator speech”) to briefly and comfortably share with patients during their office visit
- Explain the conveniences and benefits of the portal (self-scheduling, look up results, update demographics, send secure messages, etc.)
3. Make patients comfortable with the portal
- Walk them through the log-on process before they leave the office
- Send a summary of care to the patient’s portal after each office visit (within one business day) or hospital discharge (within 36 hours)
4. Get patients registered and familiar with the portal before they leave your practice
- Make portal registration part of the practice’s check-in/check-out process flow
- Using a tablet or iPad, let patients practice logging in with their username and password
- Make sure they understand the benefits of the portal – offer a flyer, handout or card that includes username and password, as well as all the great things they can find on your portal and why they should use it
5. Do more with your portal
- Once you get patients to use the portal – you have to keep them coming back. Use the portal to push out messages and announcements such as appointment reminders, vaccine clinics, health tips, practice news, local events, office closures and more.
- You can also use the portal to provide targeted health information. Send information related to diabetes management or heart disease. Offer classes or informational events and promote them via your portal.
- Add online bill payment options to increase revenues, improve collection times and reduce overhead billing expenses
Hold on…My Practice isn’t interested in Meaningful Use – why do we even need a portal?
You might not be interested in Meaningful Use but are you interested in lowering your expenses and increasing your revenue? A patient portal is a vital and valuable tool for that. A patient portal will:
- Improve office efficiency – patients can schedule their own appointments or double check appointment times, addresses. Think of all the calls your staff answers that could easily be eliminated if patients could look up that information on their own. Patients can complete forms online, instead of in the office. You’ll see reduced no-shows, lower your costs and increase your revenues. That’s a win-win!
- Be a convenience that patients expect – Today’s consumer is used to having the world at their fingertips, thanks to smart phones and tablets. With just a few clicks – you can give them the information they want to know, when it is convenient for them. That builds their loyalty and keeps them coming back to your practice!
- Motivate patients to take the lead in their care – The portal encourages patients to ask questions as they occur (not just during appointments or in phone calls afterwards). It also provides them with results, medication reminds, care plans and the opportunity to review detailed information that they might have forgotten. A portal put information into the hands of patients and encourages them to take action in managing their care.
- Market your practice – Patient portals provide the opportunity to market and promote your practice as a forward-thinking, modern practice that combines technology with an outstanding care experience.