Are patients at your medical practice engaging with your patient portal? Well, if you’re like most practices some are, but most are not yet using your portal in a way that delivers real patient engagement.
While there are some practices with portal adoption and engagement rates over 60%, the majority falls well below that number, with some reports showing overall averages hovering around 30%.
So how can you increase engagement levels for your practice?
Provide a Patient Portal that’s easy for patients to use and understand.
There are a variety of reasons why patients don’t use portals. But one of the biggest is that they’re not easy enough to use.
The idea that patients were uncomfortable using the technology was a popular reason for poor adoption a few years ago, but most of your patients are already banking online, buying products online and sharing photos of their children or grandchildren. In many cases, your patients, even the older ones, are accessing the Internet right from their smartphones. They do all of this because they’ve learned to use the technology and it works the way they expect it to work.
The overwhelming majority of your patients know how to navigate the online world and have expectations for how information should be displayed and categorized.
According to John Deutsch, CEO of Bridge Patient Portal, a leading patient portal provider, “A successful patient engagement solution pairs user experience, functionality based on relevant and accurate information, and patient marketing incentives.”
Have some of your patients tried using your portal and abandoned it? If so, you may have a user experience problem.
Your practice is not locked into the patient portal that came with the EHR system you chose. There are stand-alone patient portals that in some cases are best of breed technology that fully integrate with your existing systems.
Set Patient Expectations through Consistent Communications
When we deposit money in our bank accounts, we expect to see the balance change when we log into our accounts online. When we order a product from Amazon.com, we expect it to turn up on our doorstep in two days. Why? Because in both cases, we’ve learned to expect those results.
It’s easy to see why a patient might expect to see the results of her blood test online within hours of taking the test unless we set her expectations ahead of time.
As an example, what if the physician told the patient that her blood test results would be available online within three days, and that same information was confirmed again when the patient checked out? The patient’s expectations are now set, and as long as the results appear within three days, she’s pleased and very likely to continue using the portal.
Consistently Promote the Use and Value of Your Portal to Patients
Promoting the value and ease of use of your patient portal should be a priority for your practice. Consider the different touch points between the practice and the patient and use them as promotion opportunities.
First and foremost, the physician should note a patient’s portal usage during each visit. Mentioning the value and ease of use of the portal and encouraging the patient to use it will go a long way towards convincing them to try.
But asking once isn’t enough for most people. Nurses taking blood pressure could say that results will be available on the portal. The person scheduling the next appointment can mention how easy it is to confirm or change appointments through the portal. The opportunities to educate are endless and ongoing.
Having a brochure, which explains the benefits of the portal and giving it to non-users as they conclude their office visit is another way to encourage portal use.
As the patient usage of your portal increases, you’ll find it to be one of the most important patient engagement strategies for your practice. You may even find fewer calls come in because your patients have access to answers and information online that’s convenient and easy for them to use. Now that’s improved patient engagement!