There’s a rumor swirling around the medical community that patient portals are dead, finally felled by their cumbersome user interfaces and onerous login requirements. Were it not for the fact that patient portals help medical providers comply with Meaningful Use requirements regarding a patient’s right to access their own medical information, we could well believe this rumor.
While the rumor about the demise of patient portals may well be just a smidge overstated, they are certainly not in the best of health. According to Michele Perry, CEO of Relatient market acceptance of portals is very low. “Both personally and professionally I can understand why patient adoption of portals is underwhelming. With clunky user interfaces and burdensome security requirements, it’s no wonder that patients aren’t enthusiastic about them,” she shared in a recent conversation.
Despite this reputation, Perry is certain that patient portals can be an extremely valuable resource for both patients and practices and in ways that far exceed the simple requirements of compliance. In a thriving healthcare market where traditional practices are competing with urgent care clinics and health hubs to retain patients and patient outcomes are used by insurers to determine payments and reimbursements, exceeding expectations in the front lines of patient care is an essential part of 21st Century medicine.
“For patients, if we’re able to make the technology requirements disappear so that they receive just the information they need when they need it, including reminders for appointment requirements like fasting, to bring medication, or notifications that cover multiple appointments for a family, their satisfaction and compliance increases,” Perry commented. One of the greatest areas of success using this approach is the ability to send timely reminders for critical, yet often forgotten medical events, including vaccinations. “In one instance where Relatient was engaged by Greenvale Pediatrics in Alabama, the compliance rate for vaccinations increased by over 30 percent following the implementation of targeted, automated text and email reminders,” she shared. Moreover, the ability to communicate critical information during emergencies, such as this year’s hurricanes, enables trusted providers to direct patients to where care is available and manages patient expectations about clinician availability.
The benefits, however, don’t just accrue to the patient. For practices the ability to communicate easily and appropriately with patients improves their ability to deliver a higher standard of care, grow the practice and add to the bottom line not only be increasing patient retention but also by improving payment collections and medical billing. These benefits are all achieved by automating routine processes, freeing practice administrators to focus on value-added activities that further added to patient experience and overall satisfaction.
So, while Perry is confident that patient portals shouldn’t be consigned to the IT gravesite just yet, she cautioned that practice managers need to be aware of the differences between portals and proactive patient communication services. “It’s not enough anymore to make patient information accessible on the web or in an app — industry averages show only 30% patient adoption. Instead practice managers need to think about how to engage their entire population proactively using patient-centered engagement. It’s all about simplicity and sophistication,” she quipped.
“Portals are still valuable, but more important is simple communication. Sometimes patients need to be pointed to their portal and other times they just need a text that their labs are normal or it’s time to schedule another appointment or easily pay their bill via their mobile device.” However, to communicate the right thing, to the right patient, at the right time requires a sophisticated HIPAA compliant backend that can integrate seamlessly into the existing EHR system to not only pull information to provide timely reminders, but also furnish data back to the EHR to ensure information accuracy and further the continuous improvement of workflows.
“In other words, a viable engagement and communication strategy that meets both patient and practice needs should include a portal and a patient communication service. The optimal solution is an interface that fits so perfectly into a patient’s and practice manager’s life that it’s overlooked, it’s invisible. We call it an invisible app because it’s simple on the frontend and sophisticated on the backend to meet the security and compliance requirements with no IT burden for the practice staff,” Perry concluded.
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