Could designing patient portals to look like apps boost patient engagement?

Patient engagement in healthcare tends to be via patient portals or mobile apps, but adoption of these two platforms is largely skewed toward apps. Given the push to engage more patients with their care, modeling portals to function more like apps could significantly boost engagement, according to an opinion paper in the journal Healthcare.

While patient portals offer patients a vast amount of information, they can be difficult to navigate and understand. The paper authors said in previous work, they found patients were often confused by how test results were displayed, and the main criticism of the portals was that they were not user-friendly.

"There is also little evidence that patient portal design addresses patients' needs outside of meeting the 'meaningful use' patient engagement criteria," according to the paper.

Mobile apps, though, seem to be developed with consumer use in mind. Features like easy log-in access, real-time tracking and simple user designs help make mobile apps attractive and intuitive, according to the paper.

The authors write that patient portals and mobile apps do serve different purposes — where patient portals are largely collections of records and a means of communication, mobile apps focus on engaging consumers. However, patient portals could adopt features of apps that lead to higher engagement success.

The authors suggest simplifying language used in the portals to ensure information is understandable. Additionally, portals could direct patients to educational resources regarding test results.

"To increase use, user-experience, adoption and functionality, patient portals need to incorporate innovative design and user-friendly features, such as simplified data displays, easy log-in access, and alerts, pings, or notifications that explain results in layman's terms and tell the patient if additional care is needed," according to the paper.

More articles on patient engagement:

Patient engagement solutions market poised to hit $39B by 2024: 3 things to know
The current state of patient engagement: 4 statistics
Conn. hospital seeks to improve patient experience with luxury suites for families

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