If You Build It, Will They Come?

Meaningful Use requires a patient portal to successfully gain incentive dollars in 2014. Many healthcare organizations’ IT departments are forging ahead with portal implementations, secure in the knowledge that patients are clamoring to interact and communicate virtually with their physicians and hospital system.  With all of the effort and dollars healthcare organizations are putting into IT and eHealth, a large blind spot often exists in strategic thinking and planning.  While technology tends to focus on the “what,” or the features and functions that can be provided, the “how” and, more importantly, “why” people – providers and patients – are going to use the patient portal is a consideration lacking in most organizations.

Healthcare organizations must treat the roll out of a patient portal much like it does any other service they are promoting with a marketing campaign – with a clear strategy and objectives, a target audience, and a process to measure success.  Marketing and IT, along with leadership, must work together to achieve this.  IT is the subject matter experts that can clearly define what the capabilities of the technology are.  Marketing can then put together all of the materials needed to educate and drive portal enrollment and use.  The education process cannot be limited to patients.  Providers, call centers, admission and discharge staff and community outreach coordinators all need to be knowledgeable on the importance and benefits to portal adoption.

Providers are on the front line of healthcare and still have the most influence over patient behavior. They will be the primary drivers of patient portal adoption and must understand its benefits to their patients and their health. The organization must work with providers and their staff to establish new workflows that incorporate the enrollment steps as seamlessly as possible in existing routines.  Internally, organizations must establish methodologies for verifying identities and rules for family and proxy accounts to ensure smooth, and compliant, processes.

Technology can be disruptive and change is difficult.  Change management relies on communication, education and relationships.  Patient portals are a tool, part of an arsenal that organizations must employ to achieve patient engagement goals.  With cross functional participation, provider engagement and workflow alignment, patient portal adoption, and thus Meaningful Use incentives and population health goals, can be exceeded and long-term competitive advantage established.

To discover more about strategic plans to help you establish processes for patient portal rollout, adoption & utilization, learn more about the Virtual Influence Planning group, the experienced, unbiased healthcare and IT consultants.