We have all heard the saying – an engaged patient is a healthy patient. With the rise of electronic health records (EHRs) and the mandates for meaningful use came the patient portal.
Patient portals were designed to give patients real-time access to their patient records and open a new line of communication with their clinician.
To satisfy the objective of meaningful use requirements, health systems nationwide were quick to activate poorly designed portals with minimal information. Patients were given usernames and passwords but found these new portals offered very little value.
EHR companies began to optimize their portals, offering more features but many practitioners were not comfortable with implementing the technology. A high percentage of patients logged in for the first time, never to return. Further mandates ensued requiring five percent of patients to engage with their clinician using the portal and health systems began to focus on strategies to draw patients to the portal. Many organizations added a link to their website, sent messages to patients with “response required” subject lines, and staffed interns to sit in the waiting room and log patients in. Unfortunately, most patients still didn’t see the value and never returned, forcing the organization to duplicate the same efforts each year.
Patient as a consumer
What these health systems didn’t realize is that their patients were turning into consumers and if they were expected to use the portal, there needed to be benefits to them as the consumer. Clinicians were afraid to activate certain features of patient portals like lab results and health maintenance alerts, no doubt due to their apprehension to readily available data.
There needs to be a change in culture within the entire organization. Clinicians should lead the charge, gain buy-in from staff and, as a team, adopt a complete patient engagement strategy to integrate into the organizational culture. Patients need to see the medical office trust in the system and understand how it will impact their health in a positive way. Clinicians are trusted by patients and need to be the lead cheerleader for new patient engagement strategies.
Below are 10 steps to ensure your patient engagement strategy works:
- Commit as an organization to a true patient engagement strategy.
- Ensure information that patients expect, or need, is readily available.
- Improve the value of information by communicating and responding quickly to questions.
- Make it simple to log in or manage login credentials.
- Engage trusted physicians in conversation with patients.
- Increase the number of devices in which the portal can be accessed.
- Invest in staff training on portal features.
- Do not blame the government for portal rollout (this is very common).
- Understand the technology and implement new features as they are released.
- Launch the portal after naming a practice champion to lead the charge.
Medical Advantage Electronic Health Record Consulting Services offers workflow assessment, eClincialWorks training, optimization, implementations, and more. We help physicians and medical practices to leverage the full functionality of the their EHR to improve patient care and to succeed in the value-based health care market. Learn more about our Electronic Health Record Support Services.