Online Patient Portals

The Importance of Online Patient Portals

Online patient portals are quickly becoming a central part of the healthcare delivery experience. While some providers may be hesitant to introduce them due to the costs and learning curve involved in a new technological implementation, they offer myriad benefits to both patient and provider.

1. Improved Communication

One of the most salient benefits of an online patient portal is improved communication between patients and healthcare practitioners. Patients can easily arrange appointments, send messages, or receive notifications regarding prescriptions or follow-up treatment all in one central place. Patients no longer have to call up or wait to receive results – and providers can reduce time spent on the phone. The 24-hour nature of such portals can also empower patients with chronic conditions to take ownership of their health, allowing them to shift more of their care to electronic communications.

2. Safe, Secure Information Sharing

Providers can easily upload patient visit summaries to online patient portals, ensuring that patients receive essential information about their latest visit, along with any recommendations. Portals can also be used to share patient-specific education resources such as those related to specific conditions or lifestyle recommendations. Patients can also upload past test results, records, or relevant documentation for practitioner reference. It’s vital, of course, to ensure that any portal implemented is HIPAA compliant.

3. Streamlined Registration and Admin

Online patient portals allow patients to easily schedule and check in for appointments – or even select a preferred practitioner. Portals also handle lab reporting, questions about referrals, and refill needs. This drastically reduces admin time, freeing up your reception staff, and improving a practice’s workflow. According to a HealthIT study, online portals decreased both inbound and outbound call volumes, reduced work times and overtime, and resulted in more positive patient interactions.

Implementing an Online Patient Portal

A patient portal helps drive patient loyalty while also stretching a practice’s resources further. However, if you’re considering implementing a portal, be mindful of your practice’s demographics. Clinics service older demographics, those without ready access to the internet, or those where literacy is a barrier may find that patient uptake is slow.

In order to make the implementation process as smooth as possible, take the following steps:

  • Provide staff with crib sheets and talking points to use when introducing the concept to patients.
  • Develop signage and print materials that show the benefits of the portal. These should show patients how to register.
  • Discuss the portal during visits and have staff provide onboarding assistance during the early stages of use.

Online patient portals improve patient access as well as a clinic’s ability to provide care. Safe, secure, and centralized, they provide a single point of contact, while also streamlining day-to-day admin. These outcomes dramatically outweigh the initial challenge of implementation, freeing up practice resources, and providing a better patient experience overall.