Updated on May 24, 2021.
Determining how to increase patient engagement is becoming increasingly important within physician practices. Research suggests[¹] that implementing a patient portal is now a vital part of increasing patient engagement, which improves overall patient outcomes.
In order to encourage patients to register to use your online patient engagement portal and to continue using it over time, your practice must focus on these key components: preparation, outreach, and encouragement. Here are some tips on how to address these components in your practice.
Preparation: The Importance of Your Team
Before you can begin marketing the patient engagement portal to patients, your office and clinical staff must fully understand the portal: not only how to use it but also why it is important for patients to use it. Staff must be trained to answer any questions about the functionality or utility of the portal and be able to walk patients through the different modules your practice provides.
Your practice can also prepare by implementing steps to facilitate patient registration and adherence, such as an electronic patient registration system, maintaining up-to-date contact details for patients in the database.
Physicians probably have the most important role in promoting a patient portal. Some physicians aren’t technology literate, so it’s understandable that they would be reluctant to use the patient engagement portal themselves. Once they are trained and acclimated, however, they can advise their patients on the benefits and ease of use.
Patients who are encouraged by their physician to begin using a portal are nearly two times more likely to heed their instructions[²]. This can be all that’s needed to get someone to use the patient portal for the first time and continue using it – resulting in increased patient engagement.
Outreach: Raising Patient Awareness
This may be obvious, but how do your patients know that you have a patient portal? One way to effectively market the patient engagement portal is for office staff to inform patients as they come in for an appointment. Staff members should encourage patients to complete the intake process through the patient portal. Using the patient portal provides patients with step-by-step instructions for completing registration forms and for entering the information needed by your office.
Brochures and posters can be displayed in the lobby and the waiting rooms to raise awareness. An easy way to increase patient engagement is to provide the QR code on the brochures and posters so patients can quickly download the app from an app store.
Make sure all of your outreach reaches the demographics that your practice serves by providing the information in other languages as necessary or using easy-to-understand graphics.
If your practice has a website, consider creating a landing page where clients can locate all of the information regarding the patient engagement portal, including the link to get started. If you have a blog or a social media page, it’s a great idea to promote the portal by providing the link to download the portal, as well as information regarding the features of the portal, such as provider messaging, lab results, and prescription refills.
You can also include information about the portal on your voicemail and on-hold messages. When patients call for information that could have been accessed through the patient portal, staff can take that opportunity to encourage portal use by informing patients that they have the capacity to access the information they need 24/7 via the portal.
Sending the link to the portal via SMS and email to all patients from the practice’s database is yet another way to raise awareness. Additionally, when sending appointment reminders via text or email, incorporate the link to download the app and encourage patients to fill out pre-visit forms.
Encouragement: Highlight Patient Benefits
Even after the portal is launched and running, it is important to continue to highlight and promote features of the portal that patients are most interested in[³].
Some of these features include:
- Having access to lab results without having to wait for a callback from the physician’s office
- Being able to send and receive HIPAA compliant messaging from their physician
- Being able to schedule patient appointments online without having to call the office
- Receiving automated patient appointment reminders in advance of their next scheduled appointment
- Telehealth software
- A prescription refill portal
A great way to encourage the patient’s continued use of the portal is to engage with the portal during appointments, which naturally promotes its usefulness. For example, if a clinician needs to discuss lab results with a patient, they can use the patient portal with the patient during the appointment.
Another benefit to highlight in order to encourage patients to continue using the portal over time is the capacity for patients to take ownership of their electronic health records [²]. This can be quite beneficial for both patients and providers as it enables both parties to maintain accurate records. If your portal offers a wellness tracker feature, patients with chronic conditions can enter their own weight, blood pressure, or any other information that the physician would want to monitor. Information can be seen within the portal by the physician without the patient having to come to the office.
Through preparation, outreach, and encouragement, your office can greatly increase patient engagement and continued use of the patient engagement portal over time.
- Bao, C and Bardhan, I R. (2020). Patient–provider Engagement And Its Impact On Health Outcomes: A Longitudinal Study Of Patient Portal Use. [online] MIS Quarterly. Available at: https://utexas.app.box.com/s/yf2pvxg37lr7w2921q4lit0byrh694t5
- Patel, V. and Johnson, C. (2018). Individuals’ use of online medical records and technology for health needs. [online] HealthIT.gov. Available at: https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/page/2018-03/HINTS-2017-Consumer-Data-Brief-3.21.18.pdf
- Accenture. (2019). Accenture 2019 Digital Health Consumer Survey. [online] accenture.com. Available at: https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/pdf-94/accenture-2019-digital-health-consumer-survey.pdf