Three Benefits of Having an Interactive User-Friendly Patient Portal

dr_EHR / February 4, 2016

It’s been said that understanding users is the best way to know what to offer them. This may be a simple rule when it comes to the world of fast moving consumer goods but it also is true about the medical sector. Since the modernization of medicine, doctors have been trying to get their patients to engage with them well after the patient’s visit but this hasn’t been easy. Health IT came to bridge that gap and now, the CMS and ONC have taken it one step further to make it a requirement for healthcare providers to demonstrate how they are meaningfully using their health IT tools and infrastructure to improve healthcare.

As you may have surmised, we are talking about the Meaningful Use incentive program, a program that is currently in its second stage of implementation and whose third stage is anticipated to kick off in 2017. The first two stages have been all about building a solid foundation for meaningful use of ENT EHR systems and it appears, going by the draft recommendations, that Stage Three will only build further on the previous two stages. However, this does not mean doctors have been having any more of an easy time attesting to MU. That is where a good solid patient portal comes in. When you look at the patient engagement requirements in Stages Two and Three, it’s obvious that there is a need to engage with patients via an electronic interface that the patients can access after their appointment.

The thresholds laid out create a steep incentive for doctors and other healthcare personnel to get their patients to use the health IT platforms to help them attest MU and get the requisite incentive payments. But many practices simply do not appreciate the value of having an interactive, EHR integrated and user-friendly portal and how it would help them attest to MU. To that end, here we’ll look at the three benefits of having an interactive and user-friendly patient portal. But first, it’s important to note the emphasis on integrated, interactive and user-friendly, as simply having a poorly designed and built patient portal simply will not suffice.

1. Your staff will understand it better

This seems like an unlikely place to start but it is the most important. You cannot teach what you do not understand. As your patients file in through the door, they will doubtless meet with your veritable staff members whom they will pellet with questions concerning a host of things, one of which will be how to use the patient portal after leaving. If your staff does not understand the portal as they do the back of their hand, then chances are they will do a poor job of explaining the same to patients. A portal that is easy to understand and use, and one that is intuitively designed for the practice will be one your staff will sell very easily.

2. Patients won’t take ages trying to figure it out

This is a design challenge many software providers struggle with: features vs. usability. For software developers, those charged with developing the patient portal you plan on using, the allure of a feature-rich portal can be too tempting causing them to succumb with the result being a portal with too many features and poor usability. When you do go for a patient portal, look for one that is easy to use, even if it does not have all the bells and whistles others have. Simple often trumps complex and this is the win you want to go for.

3. Flexibility

A portal that’s user-friendly and highly interactive offers a level of flexibility that makes it easy for a practice to adapt to whatever changes are coming to the healthcare sector. For instance, when MU Stage Three rolls in, it is the practices with a good solid patient portal that will be the least impacted, not the least because the portal they are using can easily be adapted to any new requirements by the law.

Having a patient portal helps ENT practices attest to Meaningful Use, but the benefits go far beyond clinical compliance.