What People Want from their Patient Portals

What People Want from their Patient Portals

August 2, 2016

The patient portal has been one of the most important new tools for physicians. Via a website or a mobile app, people can access information about their own care that was once inaccessible or difficult to obtain. In the best cases, this leads to increased engagement and a higher standard of care.

The data available includes diagnoses, medications and allergies, and results of tests such as X-rays, which means that people no longer need to directly speak to their physicians to get answers to simple questions. This opens up more time for physicians, and prevents details being misheard or misremembered. With a patient portal, any time there is a concern, getting confirmation is as simple as opening up an app. Some even have scheduling capabilities, reducing the time from realizing that there is an issue to seeing a physician who can help resolve it.

However, not every clinic is using these portals to their greatest effect. Some are content to do the bare minimum to meet regulatory standards outlined by Medicare. These organizations and their patients are not getting all of the benefits that they could, such as higher patient engagement, increased trust and an overall better standard of care.

Maximizing the value of any technology requires understanding how people actually use it. Here are five things that patients want from their portals:

The more people use mobile devices, the more comfortable they become turning over everyday tasks to them, including scheduling. Health care providers should make scheduling an appointment as easy as possible for their patients. Not only does this make the people being treated more comfortable with the process – and more likely to come in for important treatment – it also helps eliminate empty appointment slots.

Easy-to-Understand Test Results
While nearly all patient portals offer some access to test results, that information does little good if it is incomprehensible to the person it purports to treat. Medical procedures are awash with jargon, and even an otherwise-savvy individual could lack clarity on some of the more important points. Even an in-person encounter with a doctor can be difficult to remember and translate into language that makes sense for the patient.

To combat this, providers can give patients access to clear, plain English notes regarding what happened during their visits. Instead of having to recall whether an asterisk next to a value is good or bad, a person can log in and get detailed context for the rest of the information provided.

Often, people have minor questions for the physician that don’t meet the level of requiring a visit. At the same time, trying to track down a busy doctor via a phone call can be a frustrating proposition. Both sides can avoid this run-around with a patient portal that features a messaging system. People can contact their clinicians directly, who can then reply as soon as they see the message. This flexibility improves overall communication, and could lead to safer patient behavior and a decreased risk of costly medical malpractice suits.

Information about Treatment
One of the fundamental principles behind patients portals is that they give people more opportunity to take control of their healthcare – including treatment options. Patients want to be able to see what drugs they have been prescribed, what side effects they might be likely to experience and when they next need a refill. Having all of this data in one easy to understand interface increases their overall satisfaction with the process, particularly when combined with the ability to seamlessly order refills.

Increased Autonomy 
Portals are also good tools for providing broad-based educational resources. They can deliver clear, direct information with a graphical interface that allows people to learn more about relevant medical data on their own terms. This can be especially helpful for relatives or caregivers, who can use the information provided to gain a deeper understanding of what the patient is facing. The more information people have, the better their decision-making process will be, increasing satisfaction and enabling providers to offer a higher level of care.

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