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How to Increase Patient Portal Adoption at Your Practice

by Tammy Huntley, Operations Manager, The Children's Clinic

As the operations manager at a pediatric clinic, I have one overarching goal every day: Make sure our parents know that they are bringing their children to a practice that loves and cares for them. Now, there are a number of ways I go about achieving that goal, but there’s one at the top of my list as of late, and that’s increasing our patients’ (and their parents’ and guardians’) use of our portal.

As you probably know, the implications of poor portal adoption numbers go beyond the connections between patients and practices – they negatively affect your ability to meet certain Meaningful Use Stage 2 measures. We all know (or should know) that we need to get patients to register for and use the portal But knowing how to get them there is a different story, one that I’ve learned through a lot of trial and error.

I wanted to share some of the methods we’ve implemented, and found success with, to help others get on the fast track to success with patient portal adoption at their practice: 

1. Know your audience

We’re a pediatric clinic, so we realize that our target audience is primarily parents. This means we need to think about their hectic schedules and then promote portal adoption accordingly.

For example, we encourage them to log in to their child’s portal at home to do their online check-in at their convenience. This lets them know they can take their time and not have to worry about logging into the portal at our office while they’re keeping an eye on their children. Logging in at home also means they can bypass paperwork when they come into the office, and can be seen by our providers faster. 

2. Give patients a reason 

We let all our patients know why they should take advantage of their portal, and encourage them to go view lab and test results and patient care summaries, or to ask providers questions by sending direct messages to them. We also tell  parents the portal is a great place to print vaccination sheets they can take to visits at health departments or for school sports.

3. Have them hear it from the provider

Our providers encourage the use of the portal when they’re with patients, which is a major plus. When a patient (or a patient’s parent) hears it from a provider, they are far more likely to listen and do what the provider says than if they were instructed by front desk staff.

When a doctor tells a family they can send him or her a direct message – and the doctor will answer them directly – parents love this! They know they won’t have to go through a nurse or receptionist first. It is also worth noting that providers have the ability to triage requests/messages so that they're not the only ones responding.

In our experience, the more that providers speak with patients about the portal, the more likely they are to use it!  Encourage your providers to post labs and send messages to patients via the portal. I promise you: This is a surefire way to get patients and families to adopt and use the portal. 

4. Get creative

We’re currently setting up a new population health campaign that will remind patients and families to make appointments for wellness checks. The patient will get an email, phone call or text message, depending on the information we have and their preference, after which they can go online to their portal to schedule an appointment when it is convenient for them – and bypassing a phone call to our receptionists. Our patients love this option because they can look at their calendar on their time, and even reschedule at their convenience. And our staff gets fewer phone calls – and the opportunity at a higher volume of wellness visits. 

A final note on patient portal access for pediatric practices

When a parent has multiple children at our practice, we can set up a family account on the portal, so all children’s accounts can be accessed via one login and password. When the parent logs in, he or she can just click on the child’s record they want to see, and easily switch back and forth from there.

Reminder for front desk staff: A parent or guardian has full access to the patient’s chart until the child reaches 18 (varies by state), or unless the patient signs a Mature Minor Waiver (MMW). In the latter case, if the parent requests access to the patient’s chart or portal, we let the parent know that the patient had signed a Confidential Information and History Provided Form and we, by law, cannot grant them access.                                                                                           

Also, when step-parents are involved, a parent must give consent before you can grant full access to the patient’s chart for the step-parent. This can be a sticky situation when there are multiple family members and children so be aware of the options you can provide to families.  

I assure you these tactics work. Every day, we’re seeing more and more use of the portal with secure messaging, prescription refills, online scheduling, and online check-in. Try just one best practice, and you’ll start seeing the difference.

And don’t forget, you’re a patient too! Use your own patient portal – the more you know and understand how it works, the more you can talk it up to your patients and share use cases with them. 

Tammy Huntley is the operations manager at The Children’s Clinic in Tennessee. 




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Comments

Submitted by Linda Rowan COA - Thursday, April 23, 2015

Sounds great for Peds. We have elderly patients who do not have a computer. If it was allowed for child of patient to get on portal we could meet goals easier. Since parents can get on for children, why not other way?

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