Now more than ever, patients approach healthcare from a consumer’s point of view. They expect the same ease during digital healthcare transactions that they experience from when they shop in an online retail setting. From scheduling appointments to accessing health records, patients want to have the option to do more online on a simplified interface. To attract new patients and retain existing ones, providers would be remiss if they underestimate the power of patient health portals.
How Online Patient Portals Help How Patient Can Access Records
Patient access to their electronic health information is critical to open communication with providers and for fostering engagement. It also is a national priority. Legislation is increasingly creating rules requiring that health information from electronic health records is securely and easily accessible to patients.
Fortunately, patients are becoming increasingly comfortable with accessing their personal portals. In fact, according to HealthIT.gov:
- Nearly four in 10 patient portal users accessed their portal through a smartphone health app in 2020
- Individuals encouraged by their health care provider to use their patient portal accessed and used their portal at higher rates compared to those not encouraged
- About a third of patient portal users downloaded their online medical record in 2020 – this proportion has nearly doubled since 2017
The benefits of an increase in engagement are shared by patients and providers. However, providers should note how their encouragement plays a significant role in patient portal usage.
Improving Efficiency in Office Workflows
Patient portals are not only a boon for patients; they also provide time-saving benefits for clinical staff as patients do more for themselves. For example, patients can electronically complete forms that can easily be uploaded into the EHR prior to their appointment. Other patient portal benefits include:
- Patient education that makes it easy to find answers to questions on the practice website rather than making phone calls to the clinic
- Conveniently making payments online rather than incurring the cost of postage to and from the provider
- Online or kiosk check-in to simplify and accelerate the reception process
While portals are clear time-savers from a staff perspective, they also provide ongoing benefits for patients. For example, patients can complete paperwork at their convenience rather than feel rushed to complete forms in the office.
Using Patient Health Portals for Better Patient Engagement
Online patient portals are important tools for patient engagement. In fact, an Accenture survey found that 68% of patients say they are more likely to choose medical providers who offer the ability to book, change, or cancel appointments online – all features typically included on a patient portal.
Survey results also found that over half of patients expect text messages, voice mails, or email reminders from a medical practice reminding them to schedule an appointment for preventative care or take medications. Thanks to automations in the portal, these communications can be sent consistently.
Survey results confirm that patients want increased engagement with their providers, but they also want this engagement to be convenient and easy.
Better Patient Communication Resulting in Better Patient Outcomes
A study published on pubmed.gov revealed that patient portals can play a key role in improving patient outcomes. The study found that “Patient portal interventions lead to improvements in a wide range of psychobehavioral outcomes, such as health knowledge, self-efficacy, decision making, medication adherence, and preventive service use.”
Improved outcomes for patients using a patient portal can be attributed to:
- Round the clock access to medical records
- Telehealth, virtual visits, or remote patient monitoring make healthcare more accessible
- Online patient surveys can help providers identify and better understand patient needs
- Shared provider notes and records via secure electronic transmission which encourages collaborative care
Not surprisingly, the study concluded that, “Patient portal interventions were overall effective in improving a few psychological outcomes, medication adherence, and preventive service use.” So, the patient portal is effective in achieving that level of patient engagement that may have seemed elusive in the past.
Summary: Benefits of Online Patient Portals
For providers, patient portals help to create a more efficient office workflow. For patients, electronic access to personal health information is critical to understanding their health and facilitates active participation in managing their own care. This creates a two-way street of communication between patients and providers, which fosters greater trust, better relationships, and improved outcomes.
iHealthspot Can Help
Patient portals in healthcare are essential core components for the patient experience. For more information on how to optimize your website for the patient experience, read this blog on medical website design.