Realize the Benefits of a Patient Portal

Use this online vehicle to improve patient outcomes and office productivity.

Exchanging confidential healthcare information with patients typically requires an in-person encounter. This is often an inconvenience for the patient and — with today’s increased patient populations and physician shortages — a scheduling challenge for the provider. One solution may be found in a secure communication tool called a patient portal.

Send Confidential Information Efficiently

Technology enables secure, HIPAA-compliant online communications without extraordinary expense. Established patients can enroll in the patient portal by providing an email address to a staff member who creates a login and initial password. When the patient logs in and establishes an original password, both patient and provider can use this online vehicle to send private and confidential information, such as:

  • Current insurance information
  • Online return on investment requests
  • Test results
  • Appointment confirmation
  • Pre-procedural instructions
  • Reminders for monthly or annual encounters (e.g., monthly blood pressure check for patients with hypertension, or an annual physical)

Protocols may vary, but typically an email is sent to inform the patient that new information is waiting in the portal. The patient can log in to the portal 24/7. The information is secure and can only be seen by the patient. The patient can send a private email back to the provider, as well. Following a disclaimer warning patients not to use this method of communication in an emergency, a patient can ask a question about medication, a recurrent condition, or clarification about instructions.
The benefits of a patient portal to the practice have been proven. Research has shown that providers using patient portals experience a decrease in phone calls, while patient compliance increases. As a result, staff members are able to use their time in the office more effectively and efficiently.

A Smart Way to Handle Payment

Because the system allows the patient to send a secured email anytime, portals can allow patients to provide insurance information, confirm payment methods, and even make payments with a credit card, debit card, or check. The office can respond during business hours. No more phone tag! Plus, typed data coming through the portal is much clearer than handwritten data.

Embrace and Support Patient Use

Not all patients will embrace this new technology. Be careful not to stereotype, however; patients of every age and income level are technologically savvy. You should also get buy-in from your staff. You will want to designate at least one individual to be the point person, to answer and dispatch communications, and to be responsible to provide patient support with log-in difficulties.
Using telehealth and m-health (mobile health) to manage health communications between providers has proven to increase efficacy and proficiency. It’s time to bring your patients into the zone.
Jose “Joe” Ascensio lives in Kansas City, Mo., where he is system director of academics at Pinnacle Career Institute. He has a master’s degree in education with an emphasis in adult education. Ascensio’s bachelor’s degrees are in computer information systems. His passions in life are family, technology, and training.

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