Patient engagement has become a confounding challenge in the world of healthcare. It isn’t enough to simply offer a portal; in order to successfully meet the requirements of Meaningful Use, patients actually have to participate. I mean, c’mon, what kind of tomfoolery is this?
Terms such as “obstacle,” “necessary evil,” and “setup for failure” were commonly uttered in conversations about this engagement initiative. Many were asking, “Why would a patient log-in to our portal?” and “How am I expected to drive adoption?” Therein lies the rub. There is a direct correlation between practice engagement and patient engagement. If a practice is willing to make a few adjustments to their attitude and behaviors around this initiative, it can be beneficial for all involved.
Remove Meaningful Use from the equation
You must be thinking, “Huh?” Forget about it. Engagement isn’t about meeting a government requirement, it is about better serving your patients. Though your practice specializes in medicine, you are in the service industry. Take pride in that. Your goal should be to create the best possible patient experience and outcomes. This will create a loyal patient base that will allow the business to thrive in an ever changing market.
Create value for your patients
Remember to make this about them. They need to know why it’s worth their time to create another user name and password. This is about translating features into benefits.
Feature: Availability of on-line forms
Benefit: Eliminates the need to show up 30 minutes prior to the scheduled appointment. You’ll have more time to spend on things that you like to do.
Feature: Secure messaging
Benefit: Avoid sitting on hold, playing phone tag, having your message lost or having your message improperly relayed. Your message will end up in the hands of the person that can best serve you.
Feature: Availability of medical record
Benefit: You have detailed medical information available 24 hours a day. If you can’t remember the name of that really effective medication that you recently took, it is only a few mouse clicks away.
Feature: Online Bill Pay
Benefit: I can pay from anywhere, at any time without having to search for a check and stamp.
Feature: Education and Care Compliance
Benefit: With the movement towards paying physicians for their outcomes, it is increasingly important to engage patients in their health and make it easier for them to comply with the care plan the physician prescribed.
Practice what you preach
Verbalizing value is one thing, ensuring that it exists is another. Make it a point to reply to messages quickly and do not be shy about using the portal to initiate conversation. Be mindful of the data that you’re entering in your EHR. If you’re taking shortcuts, the patient will know. If the patient has made you aware of pertinent medical data, ensure that is represented properly in their medical record.
Think about the possibilities
Now take a moment to think about how nice it would be for you if…
- You had less congestion in your waiting room because intake forms were on file in advance
- You had fewer repetitive phone calls from patients wondering why you haven’t returned their call(s)
- You had fewer requests for miscellaneous medical details
- You had faster turnaround times on payments due to on-line bill pay
- You were able to see more patients but still leave on time
I’m personally challenging you to become engaged with engagement. By emphasizing its value and taking practice-wide pride in making your patient portal a success, you too, will see just how powerful of a tool it can be.