Online patient portal

An online patient portal allows patients to fully engage with their demographic, financial and health information through a secure website. It’s an essential part of an overall patient engagement strategy that provides practices with fully HIPAA compliant patient messaging via e-mail, phone, text and the web, offering convenient functionality for patients to keep connected with caregivers. With a patient portal, patients can make appointments and get appointment reminders, view and update personal information, request prescriptions, receive test results, and read patient education material.

A patient portal is necessary for practices to achieve true patient engagement, but it also satisfies a patient demand: People increasingly expect the opportunity to view and access any information online, and health records are no exception. The access and convenience of a patient web portal can result in greater patient satisfaction. In fact, research shows that patients who are more involved in managing their health are likely to be healthier and more satisfied with their care.1

With the right patient portal technology and services, health care organizations improve patient communication instantly and securely.

In addition to supporting patient satisfaction and engagement, a patient portal has the potential to:

  • make processes more efficient across the continuum of care
  • motivate patients to manage medications, care plans and admissions
  • enhance population health management
  • reduce costly readmissions
  • facilitate ambulatory care expansion
  • improve health system brand recognition via patient outreach

For the medical practice, communication with patients via a patient portal can increase schedule density, reduce no-shows, and cut down work and hassle — saving time, effort and, most important, money. Practices can gain efficiencies by having patients easily manage administrative tasks online in advance of their visit, such as filling out forms and updating insurance information. This can yield reduced office wait times for patients and more time for your staff to focus on other value-added work.

The convenience of integrated communication

Some patient portal solutions offer a series of integrated patient communication services that, together, can enhance the patient experience, boost schedule density and improve efficiency. For example, some patient portal vendors offer automated calls and e-mails to patients to remind them of an appointment, notify them of an unanticipated office closure, or deliver test results, all helping practices to improve patient care and increase patient visits. Some patient portal solutions also provide live operator support as an extension of the practice, to keep the lines of communications open between the practice and patients beyond business hours or during peak call times.

Better self-pay collections

A practice’s patient communications service can also improve patient responsibility collections (“self-pay,” an increasing cost for patients) by sending out customized balance-due reminders via phone, and "soft collection" messages via e-mail. A patient web portal can also improve the speed and quantity of collections by making it easier for patients to pay online. With just a few clicks, patients can view an e-statement and submit a payment — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Compliance with industry mandates

When implementing a patient portal, practices need to work with their vendor to ensure that privacy and security safeguards are put in place. Health care facilities need to provide secure, HIPAA compliant messaging between patients and providers in order to meet Meaningful Use Stage 2 criteria, and any patient portal must support a HIPAA-compliant level of security (and should contain a reasonable level of customization and configurability.) Make sure your vendor can provide regular updates to your patient portal software to keep you compliant with new mandates, at no additional cost.

Readiness to change and adapt

Staying nimble with the ever-changing health care industry, cloud-based patient portals offer the most cost-effective, flexible and robust solutions for health care organizations that need to create patient engagement strategies. A network-enabled patient portal and communication service — combining a single network for all users, continuously updated knowledge, and back-office work by expert teams — can quickly adapt to new patient engagement requirements and other unforeseen changes on the horizon.

1 James, J. “Patient Engagement.” February 2013. Health Affairs/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Available at:

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