Following the introduction of electronic medical records, patient care portals were developed to improve how patients and healthcare providers interact and to give patients access to their own health information so that they can take active roles in maintaining healthy lives.
These so-dubbed “portals” are simply Web-based tools, and it is possible to have one that exists as a stand-alone site, an integrated service with your medical practice or a part of your EMR system. No matter the type of platform that you choose, your patient portal can provide your patients with secure online access to medical details and increase their engagement with you while affording you several benefits as well.
More and more health care providers have introduced their own patient portals since the medical industry shifted focus to patient-centered care, and an increasing number of patients are signing up and actively using the service. Of the 74,368 disadvantaged adult patients monitored during a two-year study conducted between April 2008 and April 2010, 16 percent obtained an access code to their medical providers’ portals, Among those patients, 60 percent activated their accounts, and 49 percent used their accounts two or more times. Later studies show that activation and use has increased.
Increased Office Efficiency
Implementing a patient care portal for your medical practice can increase efficiency in your office through direct messaging between you and your patients. As of June 2014, about 35 percent of family practices were using portals to educate patients, and 41 percent were using it for other messaging purposes. This can save time for receptionists and nurses, especially since the messages appear in real time.
Having a patient portal can also streamline workflows in your office. Rather than your receptionists and nurses dealing with simple, non-urgent questions over the phone, your office staff can move these communications online to reserve the phone lines and their time for answering and dealing with more urgent health care needs.
Promotion of Telemedicine
Patient portals can reduce the number of unnecessary patient visits to your office, allowing you to fit in more patients who really need to see you. This can help facilitate telemedicine, which allows patients to consult with you through the messaging system. For example, instead of a patient scheduling an appointment to see you for a change in medication doses, the patient could ask you about it over the patient portal. Using this feature allows you to keep that appointment open for a patient who has an illness and requires a diagnosis and prescription or immediate medical care. More than 25 percent of family practices were using patient portals for prescription-related purposes as of June 2014.
Fewer Medical Errors
When receptionists or other staff in a medical office take phone calls, they have to relay to you the information that the patients give them. This sometimes leads to misinterpretations of patient needs and medical issues. Being able to receive written messages from patients allows you and your staff to correctly interpret what your patients need so that you are well informed and can make the appropriate decisions.
In addition to the four benefits above, having a patient portal and patients who actively use it allows you to send them reminders for appointments or to schedule an appointment for a yearly checkup. This reduces the chances of your patients forgetting.
It can also be used to provide your patients with billing information, consent forms, educational materials, and test results to keep them informed. Sending them educational materials and test results can save time from having to explain every detail during the office visit. This will allow you to see more patients every day. If your patients have questions, they can ask for more details via the patient portal or wait until their next visit.
It is clear that using a patient care portal can provide many good benefits for your medical practice. Now the only decision left to make is what type of platform that you want to use.