5 Tips for Implementing a Patient Portal Into Your PracticePosted: September 2, 2022 - By Health Dev
Too many offices avoid a patient portal simply because they do not know how to implement one. By following a few key strategies, you can streamline your systems, reduce costs, and greatly improve your patient experience.
1) Prior to Choosing a Portal, Look for Useful Features
Before you choose between patient portals in healthcare, you want to ensure they have the features you need. Too many companies say they offer comprehensive features while really offering the bare minimum. Do your research before you pick a patient portal. Here are a few useful features you want to make sure your software has:
Online Appointment Scheduling
For many offices, scheduling is still done by telephone. This requires specific office hours and staff on hand to answer phone calls. Once a patient gets through, they have to wait while a receptionist checks the doctor’s calendar and finds a date that works for both parties. The patient must then remember their appointment without automatic reminders or follow-up emails.
This can mean long wait times and a backlog of calls. It also means a higher staff cost for your office simply to answer the telephone and schedule appointments. All of this can now be done online. Patient portals make online appointment scheduling easy and cost-effective. Patients can now:
- Review the schedule of the doctor they want to see
- Pick an appointment that works for the patient and the doctor
- Click on the button to confirm the date
- Get their appointment without any waiting or phone calls
The benefits for patients and staff alike are numerous. Your office does not have to rely on outdated methods to handle your complicated and busy schedule.
Notifications of Upcoming Appointments
A key advantage of online scheduling is automated reminders and notifications. Patient portals let you set up appointment reminders. They also let your patients do the same.
You no longer have to do reminder phone calls or deal with constantly late patients. Late and missed appointments impact your bottom line and waste your valuable time. Notifications reduce these delays and missed appointments. They also help engage patients in their own care. This enhances patient loyalty because they feel you care enough to remind them about their appointment.
Patient Information via Online Forms
An online portal lets you store all of your key information in one place. You will no longer have to rely on antiquated information storage methods like spreadsheets and paper files. Instead, have your patients fill out information via forms that are within the patient portal. This provides you and your staff easy access to this information at any time — even remotely. This not only centralizes this information but also makes it much easier to access.
It also gives your patients access to their own information. Too many patients simply need a quick answer or access to a record. Traditionally, they had to call the office, speak with a receptionist, and wait until their file was found. This had a negative impact on the patient experience and cost valuable employee hours. Instead, the patient portal gives patients access so they can do this themselves.
One of the biggest assets of patient portals is secure messaging. They give you and your medical team a direct, secure line to communicate with your patients. Whenever the patient thinks of a question, they can email an appropriate physician and know it will be reviewed.
The portal allows your providers to respond at any time. They can respond to questions during typical work hours, at home, or on the road. Considering the ever-changing health situations we face, remote access and secure communication are more important than ever.
Secure messaging not only improves your customer experience but also helps protect against patient privacy violations. Older systems get hacked or information is lost. Secure communication protects your patients’ rights and helps reduce any liability associated with a privacy breach.
2) Navigate Your Existing Patients Through the Online Portal for Better Patient Experience
When you implement a new system, you must be ready to teach your current patients how to use it. Teaching them the right way can make a major difference in how they react to a new system. Many physicians simply spring a new system on patients with little to no warning. This never has to happen, and you can make it easy for your patients instead.
To onboard current patients, you need a plan. You should select software and a partner that creates this plan for you to help you navigate patients through. With the right training in place and the right assistance, you can make it simple for patients to get the hang of the new patient portal.
To help current patients navigate the new system, your software should:
- Send multiple notifications about when the new patient portal will be active
- Use postcards to encourage patients to schedule their next appointment via the portal
- Provide patients with training on using the new portal
- Provide educational materials on how to communicate through the portal
- Make it easy to register online
- Have an easy-to-use appointment scheduling program
- Show patients how to access their prior medical records
- Add a link to the portal on your website and in your office
- Make the portal your preferred method for communicating and scheduling
These tips will help make for a better patient experience with the new system. You don’t have to do it alone. An effective patient portal makes this process simpler.
3) Walk Your Healthcare Team Through the Rollout
Make sure your healthcare team is fully trained and prepared to use the new system before it is fully implemented. Make sure all of your key stakeholders are in the loop and agree on how to proceed with the rollout. Next, let your staff know that a new system will take effect. Set key dates like:
- Initial training dates
- More advanced training and on-the-job use
- A potential “soft” rollout with limited numbers of patients
- Integration of existing patient records into the new patient portal
Talk to your staff about the benefits of the change. Some employees will hesitate to change how they do things, even when the new way is much better. How you approach your staff and teach them can make all the difference in making this a smooth transition. The right patient portal gives you tools to help train your healthcare team and make this a seamless rollout.
4) Troubleshoot Potential Issues Users Might Have Prior to the Rollout
Think ahead to where your patients and staff might have problems with the new online patient portals. Some individuals will have trouble using software even when it is well-designed. You can get ahead of these potential problems to reduce the impact they will have. Steps you can take to troubleshoot potential issues include, but are not limited to:
- Speaking with your patient portal company about training and onboarding patients
- Taking into account the average age and educational level of your patients
- Evaluating internet access and technological abilities
- Identifying inefficient workflows you currently face
- Knowing what to expect in the data migration process
- Eliminating or reducing duplicate data in your current records to streamline data migration
- Deciding which migration path is right for your practice, staff, and patients
You can get ahead of potential problems and plan for them rather than react to them.
5) Maximize the Online Portal Technology to Create Improved Patient Engagement
Online portal technology can engage your patients and show them the benefits of its use. You can use online patient intake forms, portal services, and much more to enhance the patient experience. Other key resources include:
- Email and direct mail marketing
- Two-way and bulk texting
- Reputation and listing management
- Mobile check-in
- Appointment hot list
- Provide patient education services
When you maximize how the technology can work for you, patients are more likely to stay at your practice. They are also more likely to recommend your practice and keep your business successful. These tools also empower patients to take charge of their own healthcare and improve treatment outcomes.
How Can You Measure Adoption Rates From Patients?
You are now offering new and helpful features to your patients. The question is: Are they using them? You can measure patient adoption rates easily with patient engagement portals. The patient portal software measures performance, how patients use the software, and what features they use. This internal system makes it easy for you to see exactly how your patients use the new portal.
The adoption rate commonly looks at factors like:
- New active users in a specific period of time
- New users or sign-ups in a specific period of time
- The rate at which patients use the portal
- The frequency with which they use specific features of the product (the utilization rate)
You can use this information to increase the adoption rate and improve your onboarding process. Low utilization is often due to poor marketing of the new portal or lack of training. This lets you know how successful you have been and how you can improve even further.
Why Patient Portals Are a Great Investment for Physicians and Their Practices
Patient portals do much more than keep your patients engaged. They add substantial value to you as a physician and your practice as a whole. They create a positive patient experience that keeps them coming to your office instead of the competition. This creates loyal patients who come to you for years or even decades. It brings their family members, friends, and others into your practice because of this experience.
Patient portals also create healthier patients which is — of course — your primary goal. Patients have access to their own records and can feel in control of their own healthcare. This encourages a proactive approach to their health. They can receive earlier treatments and get better outcomes as a result.
Other reasons a patient portal provides a good return on investment include:
- Saves Staff Time: Your staff is highly trained and their work is better focused on more specialized tasks than answering a phone. Saving staff time means saving you money and other human resources issues.
- Easy Reminders: Easy reminders and notifications reduce wasted time with missed appointments and late patients. A single late patient can throw off your entire schedule. This can affect you financially, professionally, and even impact your valuable free time at home.
- Centralize and Secure Patient Information: Patient records are private and must be secure. Outdated systems create the risk of inadvertent disclosure and even the possibility of legal action.