According to a Medical Economics article on patient portals, patients today receive care from other sources in addition to their primary care physician, such as an urgent care center or a practice that focuses on a particular form of care such as a cancer center or a pain management clinic. With the digital age advancing at a rapid pace, patients are demanding technology that consolidates all their health information into one easily accessible location that they can access whenever it is opportune for them.
For their convenience and sense of control, they will begin to look more and more for primary providers who are onboard with their technology focus. That is why it makes so much sense for medical practices to take the steps necessary to implement an effective patient communication portal. If you are just beginning on the road to creating a patient portal, you’ll want to take into consideration your patient population, your practice culture, and available time and financial resources. Some key considerations include:
Set Clear Portal Priorities
Don’t just jump into the idea of having a portal without first spending the time to consider what you want it to accomplish for your practice and your patients. Do the necessary research to determine what is possible, and then make decisions as to what is realistic for your individual situation.
Develop a List of Desired Features and Benefits
Based on your research you can develop a list of potential features and benefits to include into your portal. Then conduct an informal poll of staff, patients, and other practices to determine which of these are most crucial, so you can set an order of implementation to include the most important features at the outset and phase others in as time and resources allow.
Think About a Rollout
Do you initially want to make the portal available to all patients, or just a select group as a beta test? The initial patients would agree to provide input and honest assessments of the portal’s effectiveness, and you would then be expected to make the appropriate adaptations. It might take a little longer, but it could be well worth it if the process results in a portal that is truly engaging.
Look Outside the Logistics
While the most involved part of the process might be the actual development and implementation, you also have to think about how you will get your staff onboard with using the portal and set aside resources to educate your patients about it as well.
As with all new protocols, there are bound to be some initial bumps along the way. Have a plan in place to address these as they arise. Perhaps one or two staff members can be appointed as a kind of quick response team that is responsible for assessing the situation, determining alternative adaptations, implementing the necessary changes, and clearly communicating any changes to all stakeholder groups.
With foresight and a proper plan in hand, the design and rollout of the patient portal should be a manageable experience for the entire practice.