It used to be that the only way a patient could interact with their doctor or access their information was through the receptionist. The patient called and either sat on hold or left a message, then played phone tag as the clinic called them back. These days, patient portals have changed all of that. These 10 benefits of patient portals may have you scrambling to make sure you have one in place for your practice!
What is the function of a patient portal?
Patient portals are secure online sites that give patients access to their medical information, at any time of day or night and without scheduling a phone call. The basic function of a patient portal is to engage patients in their own care, educating them on not only their personal health but also assisting them to take control of their treatment options.
Some of the features available on patient portals may include:
- Direct communication with the doctor via message
- Short video appointments
- Medical history and records
- Prescription ordering
- Appointment setting
- Bill payment (premium and for medical services)
- Educational materials, tailored to the patient
- Lab and diagnostic test results
- Visit summaries and notes from the doctor
- A record of immunizations
Once a patient creates a secure login, they have access to many of the things they need to manage their healthcare.
As of 2016, 92% of hospitals in the U.S. had patient portals set up, and with good reason. A review of studies in 2012, before the surge in patient portals, found that those patients who utilized the portals had better adherence to treatment plans and were less likely to visit their doctor for small issues.
Although some care providers had concerns about equitable access to portals and an increase in their workload, other medical professional noted patient increases in preventative care and better disease awareness for patients engaged with portals.
What are the benefits of patient portals?
The benefits of patient portals are many, but here’s some of the ones you need to be aware of.
1. Patient portals are efficient
Patient portals allow you and your office staff to quickly deliver lab tests and confirm appointments without repeated phone calls.
2. Patient portals improve communication
Messaging through a patient portal makes communication easier for both patient and doctor.
3. They store health information in one place
Depending on the extent of the provider’s practice, patient portals hold everything from yearly healthcare expenditures to eyeglasses prescriptions and lab results.
No more shuffling papers to find receipts or records after a visit!
4. Patient portals satisfy meaningful use standards
Meaningful use standards provide minimal criteria for securing and delivering electronic health records. Although the term “meaningful use” is now outdated, the ideas behind the term are not. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the goal of meaningful use standards are as follows:
- Improve quality, safety, efficiency, and reduce health disparities
- Increase patient engagement
- Improve care coordination
- Expand population and public health
- Ensure adequate privacy and security protection for personal health information
As a healthcare provider, patient portals help you to better connect with and treat all of the patients in your care.
5. They improve data accuracy
Because patients have access to their medical records, it is easy for them to spot inaccurate information and bring it to their provider’s attention.
6. Patient portals make refilling prescriptions easy
The majority of patient portals allow patients to refill prescriptions with a click of the mouse. And if a prescription is expired? No problem.
The portal can send your doctor a refill request or set up a video appointment if more information is needed. Some portals even deliver prescriptions for free!
7. They’re available whenever you need them
Want to pay a premium bill at 3 a.m.? Check. Schedule an appointment on a Sunday? You got it. Access medical records to take to a specialist right before your appointment? No problem.
Online patient portals are open 24/7 and even on holidays!
8. Patient portals reach disadvantaged patients
If your practice is in a rural area, or if many of your patients have limited mobility, video conferencing and messaging allows patients to experience the same quality of care.
Although there are some issues due to challenges with internet access, mobile-optimized patient portals are working hard to address that, too. As people in general migrate to increased mobile access of the internet, mobile-optimized portals can help increase patient engagement.
9. They can grow with patients
HIPAA privacy rules offer protections that grow with children. Parents have full access to their child’s account up to a certain age, at which point teens take control of their own health, often through a portal that makes this automatic.
This allows teens to have direct conversations with their doctor on topics that may be sensitive or embarrassing to discuss with their parents.
10. They allow medical practices to focus on the patient in front of them
When forms and payments can be completed online and medical records are accurate and up-to-date, doctors and office staff are better able to provide exceptional medical care to the patient in front of them.
And isn’t that really what your medical practice is all about? Even though it’s last on our list, one of the primary benefits of patient portals is how they allow you to build relationships with patients and give them compassionate, attentive care. Patient portals give you the time you need to focus on what matters most: your patients.
Are patient portals safe?
Of patient portal benefits and challenges, however, probably the biggest concern is the security of a patient’s sensitive medical data. Your office cannot simply set up a free website and expect patients to allow their medical data to be posted there!
But good news: patient portals are safe. Governed by the rules of HIPAA regarding sensitive health information, these portals are designed for security and hosted on a secure site. Choosing a webhost that offers a secure, HIPPA-compliant service with frequent upgrades, responsive speeds, and limited downtime can go a long way towards encouraging patients to use your patient portal.
Interested in exploring the benefits of patient portals for your practice? Give Boost Medical a call today!