In order to attest to Stage 2 of Meaningful Use, you not only have to have an EHR with a patient portal, you have to get at least 5% of your patients to use it. That seems like a small number, but many practices are finding it difficult to get their patients to use their patient portals.
There are many different reasons why your patients may not be using your patient portal. Some are concerned about security. Some don’t understand how the patient portal is useful. Some just simply aren’t aware that you have a patient portal.
No matter what you do, you may still have some patients who are resistant to using your patient portal. However, there are some things you can do to address the concerns of most of your patients and get them on board.
If you are having trouble getting your patients to use your patient portal, try these tips:
1. Choose an EHR system that is user-friendly.
If your EHR system’s patient portal is confusing or difficult to use, you will probably have a hard time getting your patients to use it. If you’ve already committed to an EHR system, it may be too late to change. However, if you haven’t chosen an EHR yet, try to test out different types to see what is the easiest to use before you commit to one.
2. Find out what features your patients want.
This is another factor you should consider if you haven’t committed to an EHR system. There are certain features you are required to have, like secure messaging, patient records, and the ability to submit prescription refills. However, it helps to get an idea of what features are most important to your patients before you choose your EHR system. For example, if you have a lot of patients who access the internet on mobile devices like a phone or tablet, you may want to consider an EHR that has a mobile-friendly version of the patient portal. Poll your patients to see what kinds of features they want to see in your patient portal. This will help you to prioritize those features when choosing your EHR. If you have the features your patients want, they will be more likely to log into your patient portal.
3. Assure your patients that their information is secure.
Privacy is a major concern right now, especially when it comes to health data. Your patients want to know that they can trust you, and that no one else will be able to see their health information unless they approve. According to a study published in BMJ, patients are strongly opposed to sharing their health data, especially with their insurance companies. Patients are afraid that insurance companies could deny coverage in the future if that health data is made available.
4. Make sure your patients understand the benefits of your patient portal.
Sometimes, patients are resistant to use your patient portal because they don’t understand the benefits. Some just think the patient portal is just an extra thing they need to manage. You need to be able to convey to your patients that the portal can actually make things easier for them. For example, patients may find it frustrating to hold on the phone to request prescription refills, pay their bills, or schedule an appointment. If they know that they can do all of those things through the patient portal with no wait, they may be more willing to give it a try.
5. Market your patient portal.
As we’ve discussed above, your patients may not use your patient portal because they are either unaware that it exists or they don’t understand the benefits. Informative marketing materials can help to get the word out about your patient portal and how patients can benefit from it. You can send out mailers to your patients to let them know about your new patient portal. You can also keep informative brochures in your office. You could even replace your phone line’s hold music with a message about how patients can use the portal to avoid waiting on the phone.
6. Send registration invites at the right times.
The BMJ study also found that patients were more likely to sign up on a patient portal when it was relevant to them. If your patients receive an invitation to join the portal, but they haven’t been to your office recently and don’t have an upcoming appointment, they might just disregard the invitation because it isn’t relevant to them. The study recommended that it is best to send an invitation to register either right before or right after an upcoming appointment. This practice will help increase the chances that your patients will actually sign up, since they can see the immediate benefits.
7. Offer personalized advice in your notes.
Patients may be interested in reading their doctors’ notes in the patient portal, but they may need further explanation to be able to fully understand the information. If doctors can personalize the care advice in their notes to highlight the most important information, patients can better understand what they need to do. This is also a good opportunity to link out to relevant patient education articles so patients can learn more. If the notes are good, and patients have the opportunity to learn more, they may be more willing to use the patient portal. This may also help to answer patients’ questions so they don’t have to call your office to get the information they need.
8. Make sure your entire staff understands the system.
Anyone in your office who communicates with patients, from doctors and nurses to the staff at the front desk, should be well-trained on how to use the system so that they can answer any questions patients may have. Even if your patient portal is very user-friendly, it is probably very new for your patients, and everyone will have different levels of understanding. It is important to be able to walk patients through the process of using the system. If your staff doesn’t know how to use the system correctly, how can you expect your patients to use it? If you can’t help your patients navigate the patient portal, they may get frustrated and give up.
When you switch over to a digital system like an EHR for the first time, there will be a learning curve for everyone involved, and there may be some growing pains. You may not see the benefits at first, but if you really focus your efforts, you should find that your EHR system and patient portal make the day-to-day operations of your practice easier in the long run.