Since the advent of Meaningful Use, patient portal technology has been a hot-button topic for many hospitals and healthcare systems. But after meeting the requirements, have your portals really done anything beyond being the check in a box on a form? When you derive your definition of engagement from financing rules rather than consumer behavior, you get a system that’s fragmented and uncooperative. Instead, you should define successful engagement by thinking of the patient’s needs first and create a portal with simple navigation that also provides essential functions patients want to use.

Current disparate systems with multiple logins, a limited ability to perform simple tasks like messaging a doctor or scheduling an appointment and minimal health information beyond lab results don’t do much to create an environment your consumers want to spend time in. Getting any patient population, especially a non-internet-savvy one, to use a patient portal will always bring challenges. But when your portal wasn’t designed with the usability and features consumers have come to expect from other online solutions (banking, retail, travel, etc.), even the most sophisticated patient will throw up her hands in frustration and abandon the portal use for more traditional, and time-consuming, methods of doctor-patient interaction.

Healthit.gov noted that “Just making a portal available to patients will not ensure that they will use it. The portal must be engaging and user-friendly, and must support patient-centered outcomes.” Building a portal that patients actually want to use and can easily navigate keeps the communication going beyond the office visit. Patients, especially those with complex conditions, are looking for this. The time has come to evaluate your technology solutions for how they accomplish what really drives Meaningful Use – meeting patient expectations for digital interaction that are set by their digital lives outside of healthcare.

The truth is, healthcare consumers are already engaging in their healthcare online. They’re just not doing it through your first generation portal. With 65% of patients using one or more health apps on their phones, over 13,600 health apps in the iPhone marketplace and a projected $485 million wearables industry by 2019, patients are definitely thinking about their health beyond the physical setting of the hospital or physician’s office. And if you want them to engage with your health system, you need to think like app developers and online retailers – people already successfully interacting with your patients. Mobile usability is essential. Good user experience drives continued engagement and, ultimately contributes to better health and revenue.

Once you’ve decided you need a new and better patient portal, don’t fall into the same trap that left you with a user-unfriendly portal in the first place. Consider patient needs first. And especially since those needs include mobile access, your portal should allow your patient easily complete the following from a mobile device:

  • Request an appointment, refill a prescription, obtain a referral, complete an eVisit or similar requests
  • Obtain their health information, either through secure messaging or viewing records, and notify them when new information is available
  • Upload health data they want to share with their physician and be working toward the ability to complete tasks that are assigned by their care team

And what about your patients who see a Cardiologist at the hospital’s main campus, a Primary Care physician at an offsite office and an Ophthalmologist for cataract surgery at an Outpatient Surgery Center – all of which have DIFFERENT patient portals, with different user experiences? Enterprise patient portals give the advantage here by gathering information from diverse portals into one, single-access, easy-to-use space. If you can hurdle the obstacle of getting patients to use your portal investment, you’re on the right track toward better engagement, health, and higher return on investment. According to a CDW survey of patients and physicians, engaging with patients, especially through technology, actually does improve outcomes. With better design and integration, your technology solutions can actually aid your hospital system’s strategy, moving your goals for growth and outcomes improvement forward with sophisticated, yet user-friendly solutions that help engage, inform and track patients throughout their healthcare journey. Improving your consumers’ experience will lead to increased loyalty and care, and with Meaningful Use, loyalty and care are the paths to revenue.

See why Freeman Health System selected Influence Health for their newest IT Partner to improve the patient portal experience with intuitive technology.