Reaping the full benefits of your patient portal

June 11, 2018

Looking to get the most from your online portal? Here are seven key features of the technology to better engage with patients.

“Alexa, find my healthcare records.”

Today’s tech-savvy patients expect quicker, easier access to their health records-all of them. They also want to be more involved in their own care, and when they go to the doctor or hospital, they want the same conveniences they’re already experiencing in other industries.

In other words: It’s clear that healthcare consumerism is here to stay.

This can be challenging for providers who don’t offer the right tools or services to meet their patient’s needs. The implications of failing to meet these growing needs are far reaching, ranging from patients leaving the practice in search of better service to feeling the long-term financial effects of disengaged patient populations due to declining reimbursements due to value-based care models.

Many organizations are actively striving to offer more convenient services for their patients. They’re also working to quickly ensure they meet requirements under the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) for Medicare patients. Still, a recent InteliChart survey of 800 healthcare professionals shows many don’t yet understand the potential impact of negative payment adjustments. As the MIPS 2017 payment difference between maximum negative and exception performance was 26 percent, this represents significant dollars that may be left on the table. Success is not just about avoiding penalties-it’s also about focusing on what can be gained, because reimbursements can be up to 22 percent higher for top performers.

Deeper patient engagement is key
A great starting point for happier healthcare consumers, and the heart of maximizing an organization’s reimbursement potential, begins with deeper patient engagement.

Population health management technologies are rapidly advancing to help clinicians identify which patients can benefit from intervention programs and automate the management of population health programs. These programs are creating touch points that include education, reminders, self-management, and adherence tracking to help drive better outcomes.

Increasing patient engagement can also be accomplished by taking advantage of an existing patient portal in more strategic ways. Since many patients already use their practice’s portal to access and schedule appointments or find lab results, it’s a natural place to engage them more fully and more often. Not only can the portal help make a patient’s experience easer, it can improve organizational efficiency and cost savings at the same time.

Here are seven ways practices can put their patient portal to use and reap the rewards of deeper patient engagement.

1. Access health records in one place.

Perhaps most importantly, the portal can be used to share a patient’s full picture of their records, which can help them more proactively manage their health. Enabling a patient to connect to all of their clinicians and hospitals and see all of their healthcare data in a single portal can be accomplished using tools that collect data from multiple acute and ambulatory information sources, and standardize them into a single registry for easy viewing.

2. Monitor patient engagement activity.
Obtaining outcomes requires modifying patient behavior. Enabling patients to engage in self-management and then tracking whether they are fulfilling the desired actions is a critical step to determine which interventions are most successful at an individual patient level.

3.Schedule appointments.
To save time and make scheduling vastly more efficient, patients can be given the ability to schedule their own appointments online or via a mobile app. This saves time for front-office staff and allows them to be more efficient and focus on other priorities.

4. Complete electronic forms-once.
Being able to fill out necessary forms online before and after visits is a big convenience for patients. Having information imported into the EHR so it only has to be completed once is even bigger, reducing friction in the patient experience while making data collection much more efficient in the process.

5.Make communication easier.
Giving patients the option to choose how they receive communications, including automated emails, texts, or phone calls, can streamline communications while helping organizations comply with additional requirements. The portal can also be used to coordinate medication refill requests, pay bills, and supply visit and discharge summaries. To maximize the portal further, organizations can enable secure messaging between patients and practice staff as well.

6. Provide patient education.
Providing online education materials for patients to access and review at their convenience is another key aspect of the portal. Educational tools including specific information regarding a health condition, what symptoms a patient may experience, or discussing what decisions a patient might face due to their condition help patients increase their participation in care decisions and overall management of their care.

7. Set up home device monitoring.
Wireless monitoring devices that automatically transmit data and store it in the patient portal can help patients better manage their chronic conditions, while helping clinicians manage their care plans, spot trends, and improve and sustain their clinical and financial outcome goals. As a quickly growing market, today’s most popular vital signs monitoring devices include blood pressure, pulse oximeters, temperature monitoring, and blood glucose monitoring devices. Practices looking to include home monitoring data within their patient portal should check with their vendor to check the availability of interfaces and application programming interfaces (APIs) that can enable integration of this information into their practice.

Making the patient portal a one-stop center for health records, communications, education, and interaction with clinicians is a sound way to meet patient demand for more convenient and digital services. It’s a strong way to create opportunities for deeper engagement with patients and get them more actively involved in their health. Additionally, it’s a solid way to ensure organizations can improve their ability to meet MIPS requirements and maximize their reimbursement potential. By maximizing the capabilities of the patient portal, organizations can better support the ultimate goal of healthier populations.

Gary Hamilton is chief executive officer of patient portal software provider InteliChart.