18 tips for patient portal success
There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to patient engagement. Teams have to design a game plan with tactics that work best for their organizations.
Clients have shared what’s worked for them, and we’ve compiled a list of some of their most creative and successful ideas:
1) Work as a team. “It takes a team. Provider buy-in is essential, however, we do believe it starts at the front desk. Before the patient leaves we want them to hear at least three times, ‘Hey, did you hear about this cool new tool we have to offer you?’” Melissa Huff, ClO, Clinics of North Texas
2) Start with employees. “We started with rolling it out to our employees. We wanted to gain buy-in, and they also helped us test the product before we launched it publicly,” Jaime Crawford, Manager of Communications and Digital Media, Excela Health
3) Assure physicians that messages won’t all come to them. “One of the major hurdles we had to cross was [physicians] saying it’s just adding to their workload. ‘I’m going to be getting patient messages all hours of the day and night.’ It’s absolutely incorrect…if it’s an appointment request or general message, it goes to the front desk staff. If it is for a renewal or referral, it goes to the nurse…we can direct message anywhere they need to go.” Melissa Huff, ClO, Clinics of North Texas
4) Inspire healthy competition among physicians. “We helped drive accountability with a scorecard with every physician name marked green, if meeting goals, or red, if they didn’t.” Jaime Crawford, Manager of Communications and Digital Media, Excela Health
5) Keep goals manageable. “Communicate to physicians that you do not need to get 100% of patients. So, you see 200 patients a week, you just need 12 of them to sign up to meet the goal,” Eric Schwab, Director of Primary Care, Excela Health
6) Focus on specific patients. “You don’t need 100% of patients. You can focus on certain patients, certain type of visits, like the first visit of the day or the first visit after lunch, when the provider has more time.” Melissa Huff, ClO, Clinics of North Texas
7) Target obstetrics patients, if you can. “We concentrated on obstetrics patients, the younger demographic, and that really worked for us at Westmoreland Hospital,” Mike Thomas, RN, Senior Systems Analyst, Excela Health. (Note: Excela Health distributed baby bibs through its OB unit to increase awareness about the portal.)
8) Capitalize on popularity. “Everywhere I can, I show people that we’ve got 2,000 patients a week that are using the portal…people say to themselves, “Hmm. what am I missing?” Kevin Waller, Director of Communications, Holzer Health System
9) Look for patients who like to do things online. “If you have someone up at the window who’s using their phone while they’re talking to you, that’s the person who’s likely to be interested,” Eric Schwab, Director of Primary Care, Excela Health
10) College students want apps. “Our biggest clinic is in Athens, Ohio, home of Ohio University and 20,000 students in a rural area…In that college population, they couldn’t care less about anything browser-based. They want apps.” Kevin Waller, Director of Communications, Holzer Health System
11) Assure patients that private info stays private. “In the beginning, they’re scared. ‘Is my information going to be shared?’ We have to really encourage them and let them know we will not share information…if they don’t want something shared, we can absolutely exclude that so it is not shared today, or within any future visit.” Melissa Huff, ClO, Clinics of North Texas
12) Sweeten the deal with prizes. “It sounds ridiculous, but people will do anything for an iPad. So buy a stack of iPads and offer them to your patients as prizes for signing up.” Kevin Waller, Director of Communications, Holzer Health System
13) special events after hospital stays. “We created ‘Passport to Your Health’ events, where we invited recently discharged patients back to the hospital to provide feedback on their hospital stay (they love that part), sign up for the portal and learn about Excela Health services,” Jaime Crawford, Manager of Communications and Digital Media, Excela Health
14) Use the phone center. “Our phone center was the biggest impact we had for signing patients up. We take about 100,000 calls a month at Holzer, and with each and every call we describe to the patient what the patient portal is, what advantages it has for them, and offer to send them an invite right there on the spot.” Kevin Waller, Director of Communications, Holzer Health System
15) Use medical record requests. “When a patient is calling in or coming in to the hospital to pick up their medical records, it’s an opportunity to talk to them about the patient portal,” Jaime Crawford, Manager of Communications and Digital Media, Excela Health
16) Talk to civic groups. “I went to every civic group that I could…Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau…and gave my elevator speech. I talked about three things: messaging your doctor, renewing your prescriptions and scheduling appointments.” Kevin Waller, Director of Communications, Holzer Health System
17) Hire temps. “We hired an enrollment representative for high-volume practices, those with four or five doctors seeing 60 patients each every day. We initially used a temporary agency, though, now some have become employees.” Eric Schwab, Director of Primary Care, Excela Health
18) Try square brochures. “Brochures don’t sound very exciting, and we have a wall full of brochures…We made the patient portal ones square, and they really stand out. They were a big hit.” Kevin Waller, Director of Communications, Holzer Health System
Thanks to the teams at Excela Health, Holzer Health System and Clinics of North Texas for sharing these tips for clients using Allscripts population health management solutions.
What tips would you add to this list? Please share in the comments below.