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Patient Portal Benefits Extend Beyond Patients to Providers

By better understanding how patients value patient portals, providers can align their workflows to reap some workflow benefits of their own.

Healthcare professionals regularly tout the patient-centered benefits of patient portal adoption, but for Cerner’s director and general manager of member engagement Zach Wood, portals are more of a mutually beneficial perk.

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In a recent interview with PatientEngagementHIT.com, Wood explained how patient portals have several features that patients tend to like and which help them engage with their healthcare. He also explained how most of these features are very beneficial for providers, not only for streamlining clinical workflow, but for boosting patient satisfaction.

By understanding which portal features patients like most, providers can better engage with them through these technologies, ideally boosting satisfaction and patient-centered care.

Patients like portal features which modernize their care

With regard to patient portal preferences, consumers tend to value a view into their own health record.

“First [the patient portal] is enabling a view into your health record, including all of your information, your lab results, pathology, radiology reports, and even doctors’ notes, if health systems allow,” Wood stated.

But patients’ favor with portals goes further than that, Wood said. The health technology also holds the power to make patient care a truly modern experience.

“Among other things a modern experience for the patient is being able to schedule, reschedule, and cancel appointments,” Wood said.

Patient portals’ remote scheduling capabilities help patients push past older methods of patient provider communication, allowing them to contact their physicians through ways that are more convenient for them.

Portal technology can also help patients avoid the archaic practice of updating paper medical histories at each doctor’s appointment.  Some portals allow users to enter and update their medical information online, which can save time in the waiting room.

This modern approach to healthcare helps both patients and providers see a more accurate and up-to-date image of an individual’s health, and this keeps improving as patients have the power to update information as their health evolves.

Most of these tools are also critical for the provider

While healthcare professionals have frequently referenced the benefits patient portals have for patients, they also have several of the same for providers.

According to Wood, providers like patient portals for many of the same reasons that patients do, and tend to use a lot of the same features. This is mainly due to providers trying to use this tool to build relationships with their patients, and wanting to engage them on the same platform. Wood has found that providers are notably looking to relate to their patients.

“Providers are trying to have relationships with these individuals and be able to effectively communicate with that population,” Wood explained.

“Having bi-directional messaging between the patient and provider, not only is convenient on both sides, but it saves an administrative burden as well,” he continued. “And being able to show that health record to the patient enhances the communication lines and provides self-service which is great for the patient and the provider.”

These better communication lines, foremost made possible by secure bi-directional messaging, will ultimately lead to better satisfaction.

“You’re creating better communication lines with the patient leading to higher patient satisfaction,” he said. “You build that relationship and you continue that relationship in your on-going care.”

Lest we forget about the patient satisfaction benefits of automating some of the more logistical processes, Wood added, including the above-mentioned appointment scheduling and medical history gathering.

These open communication lines also lead to an enhanced convenience factor for patients, ideally eliminating several of their healthcare-related frustrations and making for a better experience with their doctors.

“In terms of patient satisfaction, being able to automate saves them time, reduces paperwork and phone calls,” Wood said. “I think messaging is big and being able to share information in those communications.”

Building this relationship starts with the provider

While patient portals do serve a mutually beneficial purpose in engaging the patient and aiding the provider, they are highly dependent upon patient engagement. Wood says those patients who have the highest level of portal engagement are also those who have higher levels of overall engagement.

But how can healthcare organizations build that kind of participation? According to Wood, the onus is on the provider.

“You need a starting point with that relationship, but once you’ve started using it in some of the ways we’ve talked about, you definitely have more engaged populations,” Wood noted.

Through effective patient engagement, providers should be able to build relationships with their patients, both in person and through the portal. In building those portal relationships, providers can help patients get the most out of their healthcare, and they themselves can also benefit from more efficient, automated care processes. In the end, all of this can pave the road to higher quality care.

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