Forward-thinking physicians and healthcare administrators see patient portals as an ideal route to engage patients and create a ‘patient-centered’ experience. According to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), 90% of applicable healthcare providers interviewed in a study confirmed that they had a patient portal in place.
Yet, with such a high adoption rate by practices in recent years, many studies show that patients are still not utilizing them. It can be argued that while healthcare groups are looking for ways to better engage with their patients there’s a link that’s still missing. There can be two ways of essentially bridging this gap: better communication and promotion of the portal and more user-friendly and capable platforms. Positive provider testimony around the use of the portal and its abilities can be a crucial step in increasing patient use. When a patient hears from their doctor’s mouth how great the portal is, they might be more inclined to leverage it themselves. Additionally, many providers might think that older patients will not use the online portals as much, but research has shown that patients in their 60s are just as likely as younger patients to register for their patient portal. So, young or old, the portal should be encouraged for all.
When it comes to the user experience of these platforms and their capabilities to tie in relevant and engaging patient information, Dr. Pamela Ballou-Nelson of MGMA put it best when she described many as “clunky and offer[ing] nothing more than secure message exchanges.” Dr. Nelson outlines the five capabilities that a patient portal must include to prove beneficial to a patient, which include:
- The ability for patients to view their health data
- Online appointment scheduling
- Online billing
- Prescription refill requests
- Data update capabilities
Essentially, the patient portal should be an all-encompassing tool that benefits the physician and the patient, bringing them onto a unified forum integrating care with communication. Recently, implementing medical imaging into patient portals has become more popular. Ambra’s ability to image-enable EHR patient portals or create stand-alone imaging patient portals for healthcare providers, as seen at Frederick Memorial Hospital, adds patient imaging to the patient data landscape. This innovative step forward can only work to push patient portals forward – furthering patient engagement rates, as the portal becomes a necessity for information access, sharing, and viewing.