Patient Portals – Why You Should Consider Using Them
According to new research from health IT vendor athenahealth, there are financial implications for portal adoption and these benefits are in addition to the clinical advantages of portal use for both provider and patients, such as better patient engagement and care coordination.
Athenahealth tracked portal adoption rates by pulling data from its cloud-based healthcare network athenaNet and the network insights are based on 3,500 medical groups across the U.S. with 7.5 million patients plugged into a patient portal.
Within the 1,200 practices that use athenahealth’s portal, practices that saw portal adoption increased by 20 percentage points or more over the course of a year also had a 4.8 percent increase in patient pay yield, according to athenahealth’s research. And, practices with smaller increases in portal adoption saw patient pay yield increase by about 2 percent. Researchers also found that patients with portal accounts pay faster and are more likely to pay in full.
Researchers also looked at 18-month patient retention rates for primary care providers as it relates to portal adoption. Across the athenaNet network, practices retain 80 percent of new patients who sign up for a portal account within 30 days of their visit. The retention rate for non-portal adopters was 67 percent.
What is a Patient Portal?
A patient portal is a secure online website that gives patients convenient 24-hour access to personal health information from anywhere with an Internet connection. Using a secure username and password, patients can view health information
Patients can use the patient portal to:
- E-mail questions
- Schedule appointments
- Request prescription refills
- Review lab results
- Pay bills
- Download and complete forms
- View educational materials
- Check benefits and coverage
Providers have the ability to:
- Send patients post-visit clinical summaries and lab results via an attachment
- Respond to patient messages in between seeing patients to complete tasks more efficiently and avoid “phone tag” with patients
An article by Patient EngagementHIT suggests that patient portals have several benefits, mainly pertaining to patient access to health data. Research shows that when patients are able to see their own health data, they gain ownership of their own wellness and are better prepared to interact with their providers about their care.
However, patient portals also hold several other benefits. For instance, these tools are major drivers of patient loyalty.
Because portal features like secure messaging facilitate strong bonds between patients and providers, these tools make patients want to return to a certain provider.
Advanced Data Systems provided interesting reasons to start implementing Patient Portals:
- A major pro of patient portals is that they improve patient engagement. Engaged patients are more likely to stay loyal to a practice as compared to other organizations that don’t make much of an effort to connect.
- Your staff can easily receive messages from patients over the portal, in a process that’s as easy as email. This cuts down on a lot of wasted time on both ends (patients forced to stay on hold to leave a message by phone, and staffers having to write down the message).
- A patient portal reduces the total amount of time spent on the phone and can cut down on unnecessary visits. What’s more, it has been proven to reduce the number of no-shows.
- Patients will be happier, since they can access their medical information using their own electronic devices, even when on the go.
- They will also appreciate being able to check prescription information and request refills online. When patients need to schedule an office visit, they simply sign into the portal and make a request. This makes things easier for them as well as for your staff.
- Finally, a patient portal eliminates one of the great drudgeries of modern medicine: patients having to fill out a big stack of paper intake forms before they have their first meeting with the doctor.
Three Strategies to Overcome Portal Overload
McKesson provided research about ways to incorporate a Patient Portal based on leading factors inhibiting the use of online portals by patients and enrollees, namely portal overload.
The report states that considering the number of providers and payers a single patient may come in contact with during just one episode of inpatient care – the primary care doctor, the independent laboratory, the medical specialist, the diagnostic imaging facility, the radiologist, the hospital, the retail pharmacy, the post-acute care provider, the health insurance carrier and the employer workplace wellness program – the patient portal can become overly complex, very quickly.
Unless providers and health plans can get all that information in one place for patients and enrollees to access and use and for the patient care team to use, the widespread adoption of portals by patients is going to be an uphill journey.
They suggest three strategies to implement that will make patient portals work:
- Interoperability – The ability to acquire patient data from multiple sources, aggregate the data in one place, normalize the data and make the information available to providers, payers and patients in a single view.
- Integration – Portals and other patient engagement applications must be integrated into a patient’s workflow.
- Convenience – Patient portals and other patient engagement applications must be user-friendly. They must be easy to access (e.g. mobile) and understand in terms of the language used. Entering data and information must be simple and intuitive.
What does this mean for your practice?
To get the most value from an EHR, practices will need to invest time in training and preparation. Some customization of the system will likely be needed based on how the practice functions and the individual work styles of the various providers.
If you need funding assistance to implement a Patient Portal, contact us today to learn more.