athenahealth: 4 steps to improve patient portal adoption

Patient portals enable patients to check their medical information, communicate with their physicians and manage their paperwork. However, many practices struggle with encouraging patients to adopt these systems, according to an athenahealth blog post.

Here are four steps to improve patient portal adoption, based on input from two athenahealth network practices reporting high patient engagement online.

1. Treat patient portals as a requirement. Whitney Kennedy, MD, who leads Highlands Health for Life, a Denver-based family medicine practice, said the practice has mandated patients sign up for portals. The practice also uses patient portals as the primary mode of communication for appointments, lab results and other updates.

"As of this year, if a patient calls to schedule a new-patient appointment, we say, 'Look, you have to go on and register on the portal,'" Dr. Kennedy said. "If we notice a week ahead of time they haven't [registered], we call them to remind them to apply on the portal."

2. Train patients how to use the portal. Erin Zielinski, practice manager for a family practice in Manalapan, N.J., said the practice's front-desk staff helps patients register for the portal step-by-step. They also create email accounts for those who don't have one, and show patients in need of support how to access their information from within the portal.

3. Integrate the patient portal into the entire visit. Ms. Zielinski said the practice is "constantly driving [the patient portal] home" at each step in the visit. The front desk staff encourages signup, the physicians offer to send lab results and other information via patient portal and, at check out, the front desk staff also reminds patients to pay bills on the patient portal.

4. Add solutions to the patient portal. Ms. Zielinski also noted the practice recently added a service that sends text messages to patients to remind them of lab results to view in the portal. "We're always trying to come up with different ways of doing things to keep [patients] engaged," she said.

Click here to view the blog post.

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