With the increased presence of telehealth over the past year thanks to COVID-19, the need for functional and efficient online patient portals has also increased. Medical records are also switching to the virtual space to become more environmentally-friendly. Patient portals need to be both user-friendly and HIPAA compliant. There are a few ways to improve customer experience with an online portal.
Educate and Answer
Transferring patients from pen and paper to an electronic portal can be challenging. The first step is to educate patients and answer any questions they may have. The majority of patient concerns stem from a change in their medical routine and from privacy. Telehealth and online portals are still newer, which rightfully prompts these concerns. Practicing active listening and providing reassurance while answering questions will ease the majority of the hesitation.
Integrate into the Workflow
Employees should also be familiar with the portal. They are a practice’s salespeople during the transition process. They are the ones educating and encouraging patients to create an account and use the portal. They are also the individuals who will need to answer any questions patients may have when they call.
Having a common phrase, such as “using our portal,” will normalize and integrate it into the company. Asking newer patients if they are registered in the portal when they check in for an appointment is also another key opportunity to introduce the concept and encourage registration.
A patient portal should put the patient in the driver’s seat. The patient should feel like they are the one scheduling their appointments or paying their bill rather than the practice scheduling or billing.
It is also important to understand which patients are more likely to use the portal than others. Those with chronic conditions or have on-going treatment are inclined to use the online portal more frequently than those going for annual physicals. Because of that, there’s a greater chance they will have more test results they will need to read. Ensuring these forms and results are easy to read, understand and navigate is also critical.
Accessing the portal and using it should be easy for patients and not a hassle. Visually, it should be easy to navigate and appealing to the eye. Patients should be able to navigate to schedule an appointment, see test results, fill out forms and pay outstanding invoices in no more than two clicks from the home page. Reminders for upcoming appointments that are scheduled or need to be scheduled should also appear on the home page.
Most importantly, a user-friendly portal should make it easy to contact the patients’ doctor directly. A messaging function would allow for direct communication, eliminating the need for the patient to call the office.
Overall, it will take time to fully integrate a new portal into the practice. There may be some resistance, but the patient and their health is the main focus. The portal should be patient-centric and user-friendly. Making these small changes can lead to drastic improvement in patient experience.