As healthcare evolves to a consumer-driven marketplace, patients are making decisions about healthcare in the same ways they make decisions about other purchases. Ease of use and customer service become increasingly critical as more and more patients choose physicians based on how they can interact with them and what conveniences they offer.

Patient engagement is the strategy that maximizes technology and makes it meaningful for both people and practices. Practices that want to thrive have to actively engage patients through channels and services that we, as consumers, accept from other businesses.

A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reports that patients not engaged in their own care can cost 21% more than highly engaged patients. But, patient engagement doesn’t just make business sense. The study also shows that engaged patients also have better outcomes. Shifting payment models and outcomes-based reimbursement are changing the way physicians provide patient care. Practices that embrace technology and use those tools to engage patients in their care can realize the benefits of lower costs, improved efficiency and increased revenues/reimbursements.

Some say “It’s difficult to get started.” Or “Patients won’t use it.” Or “It’s too time consuming.” The questions that practices focused on patient engagement should be asking are “Where do I start?” “How can we keep it going?” And “How much time will this take?”

It starts with a portal

A patient portal is one of the easiest ways for a practice to start engaging patients and is a valuable way for health professionals to connect with patients and provide on-demand access to personal health information from anywhere with an Internet connection. Using a secure username and password, patients can log into their portal account and connect with the medical practice to view information pertaining to recent doctor visits, discharge summaries, medications, immunizations, allergies, lab results and more. Advanced patient portals provide opportunities to exchange secure email with the practice’s health care team, schedule appointments, update contact information, download and complete forms, view materials and make payments.

Would you like to handle fewer phone calls? Do you want to save money? Would you like to spend less time tracking down forms? These are just a few of benefits that practices realize from portals. Offering a patient portal will actually save you time and money – and will help your practice prosper – if you do it the right way.

“Today, 78% of our patients use their portal to view results, schedule appointments, update their demographics and pay their bills. Because of the services that Updox provides, our staff makes 50 fewer phone calls each day. We can eliminate backlog and offer more personalized patient care,” says Kari Jewett of Family Medicine of Jonesborough.

Once patients understand the portal, keeping them engaged is key. The benefits are more far-reaching than just appeasing a consumer’s need for immediate information. Not only do patient engagement tools motivate patients to take the lead in their care, they also significantly improve office efficiency through reduced no-shows, improved workflows, and fewer staff hours spent calling patients and following up on phone messages.

How to Market Your Portal

  • Train staff so that they understand your portal, how it works and what benefits it offers to patients.
  • Display fliers and posters in your practice (waiting room, exam rooms, restrooms, etc.) that detail portal benefits and log-on address.
  • Give patients an information card or sheet about your portal. Include space to write down username and password.
  • Walk patients through the log-on process to get them comfortable with the process and features
  • Have staff wear an “Ask Me About Our Portal” buttons
  • Make sure patients understand what benefits the portal offers them and how to use it, such as self-scheduling, check appointment times, request refills, verify hours, send secure messages, view results, and more.
  • Look for other ways you can use your portal – promote vaccine clinics or educational seminars, reach out to patients with certain health issues such as diabetes or heart health, send timely health reminders or practice newsletters….keep patients connected to your practice.

Enhancing engagement beyond the portal

A thriving patient portal is just the first step in a patient engagement strategy. Once you have that communications channel in place – your opportunities are limitless! You can offer personalized health information to your patients, connect with your community, build your practice through premium services, set up triggers based on diagnosis to track patient activity and stay in touch, target market your services, discuss health issues and trends through a blog, set up online bill payment and scheduling, offer classes, programs or rewards for wellness activities or build your referral network.

Patient engagement helps your practice to build valuable, mutually-beneficial relationships that improve patient outcomes, provide better quality of care and positively impact your financial bottom line. Medical practices that want to thrive in this era of accessibility have to allow patients an option where they can easily communicate with their doctor, when and how they want. That’s outstanding service and that’s how great customer relationships flourish! If your practice isn’t offering patients that kind of opportunity, it won’t be long before they find a doctor who does.

Interested in learning more? Join our FREE patient engagement webinar this Wednesday, July 22 from 2-3 PM EDT.

Updox offers Amazing Charts practices two options for patient portals, as well as other solutions and applications to maximize patient relationships. Learn more at www.updox.com/amazingcharts or call 614-798-8170, ext. 1.

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