How to Get Patients to Use Portals

Blog comment policy resizedPatients have begun to utilize patient portals as a means of better educating themselves on their own care and to more clearly communicate with their doctors. Patient portals have also played a key role to help optimize patient payments. The introduction of portals offers more convenient payment options for patients, helping to increase bill collections by 30 percent across medical practices. Have you adopted a patient portal at your medical practice? If you haven't, or your portal isn't performing as well as you expected, this post is for you.

What are Patient Portals

Patient portals are websites that allow patients to have 24-hour access to personal health information from anywhere with an internet connection. With a username and password, the portals allow patients to:

• Schedule appointments
• Receive eStatements and pay bills online
• Review lab results
• Request prescription refills
• Check benefits and coverage

One of the most notable features of patient portals is that they allow direct, secure communication between patients and doctors. This is great for patients as it allows immediate interaction and feedback to help make more timely, informed decisions about their care.

Benefits of Patient Portals for Providers

We have already discussed what portals can do for the patient, but they are also highly beneficial for providers. Many providers see portals as the primary tool for engaging patients and boosting patient satisfaction, retention and loyalty. A successful working relationship between patient and provider is increasingly important, and portals provide the direct interaction that is needed.

Building and sustaining strong relationships between patient and doctor is essential to improving overall care delivery. As a result, a patient is far more likely to trust and return to a doctor that they have a previously good relationship with and, perhaps more importantly, refer another patient to that provider for care. Ultimately this leads to better health outcomes.

Additionally, patient portals can accelerate cash flow for providers. By allowing patients to pay via a portal, providers are more likely to receive payments in full faster and with greater frequency. Plus, portals provide a convenient way for patients to pay on their own devices without the inconvenience of having to write a check and find a stamp. 

Patient portals can also significantly reduce the number of no-shows by sending appointment reminders and providing the ability to change and schedule appointments. Missed appointments cost the healthcare industry a whopping $150 Billion annually.

How Do You Get More Patients to Use Portals?

While it is true that the features of the patient portal are highly beneficial, the rate of adoption is still low and many healthcare consumers are not taking advantage of all functionality. While nearly 80 percent of patients liked having their health data easily accessible, only 20% of patients use their portals for shared decision making with their healthcare providers.

The key for providers is to get more patients to realize the benefits of using portals. Research shows that patients are more likely to use the portals if providers inform them about the benefits. Medical office staff should not only communicate the benefits of portals to patients, but they can also physically show patients how to use the portals and walk them through setting up an account.

Practice Assistance with Portals

One of the most successful ways to get patients to use the patient portal is for practices to model desired behavior by sending information via the portals. This simple step shows patients that providers are all-in on using the portals and in turn, the patient will be more likely to use them. 

Patients have also noted that some portals are difficult to use. Even with all the beneficial features of portals, patients won’t use them if they are difficult to access and don’t get immediate assistance when they are having trouble. According to a survey by EHR review, 41 percent of patients think patient portal interfaces are too confusing, while 37 percent are frustrated by lack of staff response when seeking assistance.

With high deductible health plans (HDHPs) becoming more widespread and out-of-pocket costs rising, patients are demanding access to the cost of care in a clear, easy-to-read format to help make more educated decisions and properly plan for future expenses in addition to gaining more insight about healthcare information. Patient portals allow the ability to easily access this information, understand why and what they are being charged, and to conveniently pay their bills online.

Patient portals can foster a good relationship between doctor and patient which builds trust and ensures practice loyalty. In light of the shift from fee to value based care, patient portals are a key cog in the  transformation and if practices continue to promote the use of them, both will continue to reap the rewards.