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Patient Portal Adoption – An Eyewitness Account

On a brisk October morning I needed an MRI, followed by my dreaded annual flu shot. Shortly after my MRI, I arrived at my PCP’s clinic to get the flu shot. I walked up to the front desk to ask about their flu shot supply and fortunately (yet unfortunately) they had plenty in stock… As I waited, I overheard the staff behind the glass asking patients for their email addresses and explaining a new online service they offered.  Of the five patients who came to the window, one was slightly apprehensive about providing her email address, yet the other four were very forthcoming. Most impressively, the staff was well educated about the new online service and very proactive in their explanation of the benefits patients would receive from having an account.

At that moment, I realized that my doctor’s office was providing patients with access to online interactive tools such as online scheduling, accessing medication lists and laboratory results, secure messaging with providers, and more. With a break in patient traffic, I was compelled to compliment the staff for their preemptive explanations of the online tools, and why these tools are so important to patients and their families. Three staff members engaged me in compelling conversation about all of the benefits, and their enthusiasm for getting patients enrolled was contagious… As I returned to my seat, I thought about other health systems across the country and wondered if their staff, both medical and administrative, are just as proactive and enthusiastic as what I witnessed?

While I was encouraged after my doctor’s office visit, reality struck me when interacting with a flight passenger during a trip this week. She asked the obligatory, “Where are you from and what do you do?” I explained, and she said, “That’s interesting, I just declined these types of services at my doctor’s office.” “Why?” I asked. To which she stated, “Because the staff member couldn’t really explain why I should sign up, didn’t know what it really was and hadn’t even created an account herself.”

If you are part of a health system, consider this:

  • Is your staff FULLY aware of not only what “functions” your online patient portal offers, but the true benefits it offers?
  • Have they created an account themselves?
  • How much does your staff understand about patient engagement, and how portal tools can involve patients in their care, as well as the care of their loved ones?

Explaining a “feature” to a patient is not going to get them to enroll, but putting the benefits into terms patients can relate to, will spark interest. Instead of, “Hello Mr. Patient, you can now go online and access your lab results and book appointments, would you like to sign up?” try, “Hello Mr. Patient, did you know that we don’t have to mail your results anymore? You can see the results from today’s blood draw within the next 48-72 hours along with a personalized message from your doctor explaining the results. If you have any questions, you can securely message your doctor right back, and he will respond to your questions. You can also book your next visit with your doctor. It’s as easy as booking an airline ticket or restaurant reservation online.”

You get the idea. Your staff members need to be knowledgeable and passionate about the benefits your portal offers to effectively influence patients to engage in their care.  Yes, perhaps healthcare is a little behind the times, but most patients (including the 50-65 year old patients I saw) are ready, willing, and certainly able to actively participate in their care. Many of your patients are already “activated” in managing their finances and shopping habits online. Now activate them in their care “virtually” so they can be partners throughout their healthcare journey with you.

By the way, I did receive a phone call shortly after my MRI from my doctor indicating all was normal. I also had a personalized, secure message in my patient portal stating the same results. I replied to the message thanking my doctor for the quick responses.

What is your strategy to get patients to enroll and champion the online tools you offer?  MEDSEEK can help regardless of what patient portal solution your health system is using. Contact us at marketing@medseek.com or download our Patient Portal Adoption Services brochure for more information.

Travis Moore, MBA, RN

About the Author

VP, Enterprise Solutions

Vice President of Influence Health, has worked in the healthcare industry for over 10 years as a pediatric nurse, health content writer, product manager, and healthcare software sales and has been with Influence Health since 2004. Prior to joining Influence Health, Travis worked as a pediatric Nurse at The Children s Hospital in Denver, CO on the Neurosurgery/Trauma, Orthopedic, and Rehabilitation unit and was also a member of the Nursing Informatics division. He then joined Thomson-MICROMEDEX (now Truven) and was responsible for writing pediatric educational content and then transitioned into a Product Management role where he was responsible for managing the nursing and patient educational product suite. Travis is the graduate of The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing. He then went on to obtain his MBA at The University of Phoenix-Denver, with an emphasis on Technology Management.