Ways to Improve Adoption of Your Patient Portal
By: Jennifer Heiligman, PT, MPT
A patient portal is an excellent tool to help improve patient engagement and streamline the workflow within your practice. Over 90% of healthcare facilities have a patient portal. However, it has been found that fewer than 25% of patients have actually adopted the patient portal. For outpatient rehab therapy practices, that percentage is thought to be even lower. If your practice is having trouble getting your patients to use your portal, you are not alone. Poor patient portal adoption can be linked to 3 general concepts: communication, education and promotion. Improvement in these areas can lead to improved adoption rates of your patient portal.
Communication is how your practice makes your patients aware that you even have a portal. This becomes the responsibility of all the staff within your practice. Starting with the front office who will most likely come into contact with the patient first. Mentioning the portal should be within their standard script. When a patient calls to schedule for the first time, have the staff inform the patient they will be receiving a link to the portal so they can fill out the necessary information prior to arriving for their first visit. You can also post information regarding the portal within your waiting room. This may catch a patient’s attention while waiting to be seen. If you use OptimisPT, you can identify which patients have not yet signed into the portal which will allow for targeted outreach to those patients.
Your clinical staff can also communicate information regarding the portal to the patients during their visit. This will obviously occur after the patient has already registered, but there may be instances where the patient could benefit from accessing the portal after care has already started. The more your patients are aware of the presence of a portal, the greater the chance of adoption.
Education is making sure the patient understands the purpose of the portal and how to use the portal. Education and information regarding your patient portal should be given to each patient during the first initial contact made between the patient and your practice. Be sure your front office staff or registration team is well versed in the patient portal. Creating a written script may be helpful in making sure the staff hit all the key points to try to increase the adoption of the portal. Emphasis should be placed on how using the portal benefits the patient. For example, the registration process will be much easier by having them enter their own information. This cuts out the middleman. In addition, the time they need to spend in the waiting room filling out paperwork prior to their first visit will be significantly reduced.
Some patients may be hesitant to use the portal secondary to security concerns. Provide information detailing what process is in place to keep their personal information safe. Reassurance that your practice has taken the appropriate steps to secure the data may be the difference between a patient using the portal or not.
Provide written step by step instructions on accessing the portal and navigating through the portal. This could be in a hard copy pamphlet format and/or a digital version that can be emailed to the patient. If you are an OptimisPT user you can create an email template to easily send instructions to your patients as necessary. If written instructions are not enough, offer a hands-on tutorial session, if necessary. Patient portals and online registration systems are very common these days. However, you may have some patients that are a bit fearful of technology. Walking them through the process of accessing your portal and giving them a tour of the site may be just the action needed to improve adoption.
You have now communicated to your patients that your practice has a portal. You have educated your patients how to use the portal. The last step is to promote your portal. Sometimes the best way to get someone to do what you would like them to do is to offer incentives. A reward for using the portal may be just what you need to help increase adoption. The incentive does not need to be large or worth a significant amount, research has shown that just the idea of being rewarded can be enough. For using the portal to submit their registration information you could offer a gift card to Starbucks or a local coffee shop, an Amazon gift card or even a tube of biofreeze or a small gel cold pack to assist with their healing. Include the incentive program on the portal information you give to patients and post within your waiting room. Also, be sure your staff mentions the offer when the patient is first informed about the portal. A small investment on your part could lead to a large return in adoption of your portal.
When practices are able to successfully implement the use of a patient portal, it leads to many benefits. These include decreased time a patient needs to spend in your waiting room, decreased use of paper and decreased resources needed to register a patient. Those resources can then be allocated toward more revenue generating tasks. By focusing on and improving communication, education and promotion of your patient portal you have a much better chance of increasing the adoption of your portal by your patients.
If you are interested in learning more about the patient portal offered by OptimisPT, click here to schedule a demo.