In this digital era, electronic health record (EHR) platforms positively impact the healthcare industry and improve how physicians care for patients. A patient portal is a website connected to the EHR that gives patients access to their health data. The portal gives patients access to multiple data points, including physician notes, lab results, medical histories, immunization records, and discharge summaries.
Let’s look at the patient portal in greater detail and identify how they increase patient engagement.
What Is a Patient Portal?
A patient portal is a secure online connection between patients and their healthcare providers. It allows patients to interact and communicate with healthcare providers and physicians while accessing their medical records and history. The high degree of interaction afforded by these portals enables the patient to take a more active role in their well-being and more control over their treatment.
There are two types of patient portals: integrated applications and standalone portals. Integrated applications allow collaboration with tools and technologies like EHR, while standalone portals are one-on-one apps.
Benefits of Patient Portals
A significant benefit of patient portals pertains to patients accessing their health data. According to research by Patient Engagement Hit, when patients gain access to their medical histories and data, they develop ownership over their wellness. They are also better prepared while interacting with their healthcare providers.
Today, patient portals provide patients with more than just a window into their health data. Most patient portals also include features allowing patients to securely message their doctors, fix appointments online, pay bills, and request prescription refills. Patient portals improve the quality of physician-patient relationships and build patient engagement by giving them greater control over their treatment.
Beyond this, patient portals also foster patient loyalty. For instance, if you are a cardiac patient, regularly connecting with your cardiologist from beyond the clinical environment helps build comfort and loyalty.
How Do Patient Portals Increase Patient Engagement?
Patient portals are a gateway for one-on-one communication and interaction between the patient and the healthcare provider. This is of specific significance for patients with chronic ailments who need constant contact with their doctors. Let’s take a quick look at six key engagement drivers of patient portals.
Secure and Encrypted Communication
Patient portals offer encrypted communication to maintain the security and confidentiality of communication between the patient and the doctor. Patient portals provide a secure and convenient alternative to making a call to arrange appointments and traveling to the medical center for a face-to-face discussion with the doctor.
The secure messaging feature is of particular use to patients with chronic illnesses, mobility issues, and those who live in distant and remote areas. Encrypted communication is vital to maintain the confidentiality of the sensitive patient data transmitted through these portals and is a regulatory requirement for all patient portals. The security and confidentiality of encrypted data give the patients confidence in using patient portals, thereby raising their engagement with the portal.
The Convenience of Online Payments
Patient portals offer secure payment gateways with features like billing details, e-payments, support from your insurance provider, and access to your payment history. This makes it easy for individuals and organizations to manage payments and deliver greater transparency and convenience while handling healthcare finances. Healthcare organizations offer these features to amplify patient engagement with the portals while monitoring and managing patient collections to boost recovery rates.
Access to Digital Forms
Patient portals also offer digital registration forms that patients can fill in from home before their first appointment. This simple and time-saving feature simplifies the workflow and reduces patients’ wait time at the medical center.
The convenience of filling in digital forms is a simple way for a patient to connect with the healthcare facility and raise engagement levels with the patient portal. Online forms also benefit the providers by reducing the workload of the front-desk staff at the healthcare centers. An added benefit is that it reduces the incidence of clinical errors, thereby streamlining patient flow while providing doctors with a holistic view of a patient’s medical history.
Healthcare providers know the importance of a user-friendly and easy-to-navigate user interface in driving adoption and patient engagement with the portal. A clunky and complicated user interface (UI) is a big turn-off for the patients and inhibits the adoption of the portal. Even the most motivated adopters will turn away from a counterintuitive UI, which leads to frustration and eventual resignation. Patient portals recognize this fact and don’t scrimp on spending to hire professional web designers to create intuitive user interfaces.
One-Stop Destination for Patient Data
Patient portals are a single-point destination for accessing a patient’s complete data set and records. The patient does not need to maintain separate records at their end. This convenience drives engagement. The patient can also identify any inaccuracy in their records and send a message to the healthcare provider via the portal and have it corrected. It is also suitable for doctors who can access the patient history with one click during online and in-person consultations.
The adoption of patient portals reduces the number of trips to the medical center. Routine activities like prescriptions for refills and dosage changes are accomplished online through the portal. This means fewer trips to the medical center; from the patient’s perspective, this convenience drives adoption and engagement.
The patient portal is also convenient for the healthcare staff and doctors as fewer patient trips translate to a lighter workload. It frees the doctor’s time to attend to patients needing more critical care. Adopting and engaging with patient portals is also the first step towards promoting telemedicine and remote patient monitoring, wherein the patient’s vitals are monitored online, and consultations can happen via messaging and video calls.
Considering the wide range of patient-centric benefits, it’s no surprise that the popularity and patient engagement with these portals are rising. It’s also important to note that patient portals also deliver value to healthcare providers.
How Can Healthcare Providers Promote the Use of Patient Portals?
While patient portals offer significant benefits to patients, their popularity depends on the adoption rate, and it is here that healthcare providers have a significant role to play. Adoption of patient portals is on the rise but more needs to be done to accelerate the process. Let’s examine some strategies providers can implement to get more patients on board.
Inform callers about the benefits of patient portals when they call to fix an appointment.
Display flyers and brochures on the patient portal in all the waiting rooms.
Provide patients with devices in waiting rooms that they can use to sign up for the patient portal.
Send patients enrollment invitations along with their lab test results.
Add the patient portal link on the homepage of the provider’s website.
It thus falls on the providers to inform, educate, and drive the adoption of patient portals. Once the patient signs up, the convenience and benefits of the patient portal will drive engagement and loyalty.
The use of patient portals is a win-win solution for patients and providers. The portals provide patients with convenient benefits, and engagement levels rise as the patient starts using the portal. Patient portals are also beneficial for the providers as they reduce their routine workload and allow them to focus their time and energy where it’s required on critical and urgent cases.