If there’s one thing I’ve learned from speaking to countless physicians, office managers and IT administrators about patient portals it’s that there isn’t any consensus about the patient portal features and functionality that they all want. This makes sense, seeing as it would be difficult to find two hospitals, clinics or practices that use the same EMR and workflow processes. Still, despite the fact that different healthcare organizations have different needs, there are some patient portal features that provide real value all-around – both in terms of patient satisfaction and accessibility, in addition to physician process improvements that can save time and money.
Here are the top three patient portal features that get the most positive responses from healthcare professionals:
Intake forms have become the most popular feature within the patient portal. Physicians and staff love this feature because patients are able to fill the forms out online, and the data is then saved automatically (as PDF files or as structured data) within the patient’s health record section of the portal and in the EMR. Online intake forms save time for patients, but they also reduce processing times for office staff, as there are no records to copy or data to transfer into the organization’s EMR. Practices and hospitals that utilize a patient portal will eventually have intake forms (if they don’t already).
In addition to using the patient portal to schedule appointments with their physicians online, patients are able to use the portal to communicate via email, phone or even video conferencing. With telemedicine services becoming more widely adopted, physicians are beginning to appreciate the flexibility of scheduling eConsultations. This type of appointment is more cost-effective and saves time. Plus, it gives physicians and patients the ability to consult from the comfort of their own home, making for a more comfortable experience.
A few years ago, John Hopkins and the University of Rochester conducted some provider-specific studies, and they found that appointment reminders can reduce no-shows by 30 percent. The problem for many years has been that making phone calls and mailing appointment reminders is labor intensive. With patient portals, this is all changing. By setting an auto-reminder feature, patients can receive an email or SMS text about their upcoming appointment. This doesn’t require office staff intervention, and it minimizes loss of revenue to the practice.
There are additional patient portal features such as secured messaging, prescription refills, and test results that can be a benefit to any practice. Before installing a patient portal, make sure you have a good understanding of your practice’s needs and of the features that your patients want and would actually use.
Does your healthcare organization have a patient portal, or are you looking to implement one in the future? What features do you think would be useful to have?