Determining how to increase patient engagement is becoming increasingly important within physician practices. If a practice wants to successfully attest to Meaningful Use Stage 2, as part of the Medicare and Medicaid EHR incentive programs, it will need to prove that patients are actively engaged in using their patient portal.
Here are some suggested tips for getting patients (even reluctant ones) to register to use the portal and to continue using it over time.
Raising Patient Awareness
This may be all too obvious, but how does your patient know that you even have a patient portal? Office staff can inform patients as they come in for an appointment. They can provide step by step instructions for completing registering forms using the patient portal and for entering demographic information needed by your office.
Placing a desktop computer in the practice’s lobby is a great way for patients to begin this process. Additional information such as brochures can be also displayed in and around the lobby to raise awareness. If your practice has a website, it would be a great idea to promote the portal by providing a link to get started. Sending a post card to all patients from the practice’s database is yet another way to raise awareness.
It’s important to highlight features of the portal that patients will be interested in. Some of these features include:
- Having access to lab results without having to wait for a callback from the physician’s office
- Being able to send and receive secured messages from their physician
- Being able to schedule appointments online without having to call in to the office
- Receiving reminders in advance of their next scheduled appointment
It’s critical that a first time user’s experience is a pleasant one. The patient portal should be simple and easy for patients to understand and use. If it is, patients are much more likely to see value in the portal and will continue using it
After a patient begins using the portal they will begin to take ownership of their electronic health record. This can be quite beneficial, in terms of maintaining accurate records, for both patients and providers. Patients can also begin adding additional information into the EHR to give a more complete picture of their overall health on an ongoing basis.
In the area of preventative maintenance, some portals offer a wellness tracker feature allowing a patient to enter their own, weight, blood pressure or any other information that the physician would want monitored.Many portals even allow for custom programming in order to add new features. Information can be seen within the portal by the physician without the patient having to come to the office. This can especially be effective for patients with chronic conditions.
The Physician’s Role
Physicians have probably the most important role in promoting a patient portal. Some physicians are technologically challenged so it’s understandable that they would be reluctant to use the patient portal themselves. Once they are trained and acclimated, however, they can advise their patients on the benefits and ease of use.
Patients who are encouraged by their physician to begin using a portal are more likely to heed their instructions. This can be all that’s needed to get someone to use the patient portal for the first time…and continue using it.