For most adults, the use of the Internet and other electronic communications is second nature – yet when it comes to the adoption of patient portals, the majority of practices report overall averages of just 30%.
Why so low? A recent survey carried out by Accenture clearly showed a high amount of interest, around 90%, in digital tools, such as portals, but patients just aren’t using them.
Here, we take a look at the three main reasons why patients aren’t using portals, as well as how to overcome them to achieve real patient engagement.
- Give Patients The Quality Tools They Want
The features patients want in a patient portal isn’t the same for everyone. Do some research in finding aspects that would make your patient’s lives easier. In a 2014 study, it was reported that in female groups polled the feature most asked for in a patient portal was lab results. In a similar male poll, it was reported that online appointment scheduling was the most requested feature. Make sure your patient portal reflects the needs of your patients. When patients have the tools they want available for them, patient engagement increases.
- Get The Word Out About Your Patient Portal
All staff in your practice play a role in educating patients about the portal and encouraging portal use. We all can agree that patients have a million questions about their healthcare and it’s our duty to make sure their questions are answered correctly. Staff can interact with patients using messaging systems and answer their questions faster.
Also, if a patient is frustrated with long wait times on the telephone, staff members can mention how easy it is to make, confirm or change appointments online – which may lead to reduced call volumes. Don’t be afraid to email a newsletter to your patients about your new patient portal. Patients will appreciate the portal if it’s convenient for them and the lines of communication work well.
In the Accenture survey mentioned earlier, it was shown that, by and large, those surveyed aren’t taking ownership of their own health records, with just 25% using a single patient portal. Yet that number can be vastly increased and patient engagement improved by taking simple steps though design, expectations and promotion, to deliver a truly beneficial portal to patients.
- User-Friendly Experience
This is perhaps one of the biggest problems facing patient portals – they aren’t easy enough to use. Patients, even the older ones, are tech savvy now, using the Internet for everything from online banking to buying products. They know how the online world works, and they expect your patient portal to be simple to use – if not, they will simply abandon it. John Deutsch, CEO of Bridge Patient Portal, was recently quoted in EMR Daily News, “A successful patient engagement solution pairs user experience, functionality based on relevant and accurate information, and patient marketing incentives.”
Critically evaluate your current patient portal and find out if patients have tried to use your portal and abandoned it. This is a telltale sign of user experience problems. If your current portal has little patient engagement, consider investigating other options – custom portal solutions can be developed and optimized to meet your patients’ needs.