Patient portals improve the quality of life for patients and boost your ability to provide excellent care. However, even with all of the patient portals out there, only about a third of patients utilize them (and that’s on the high end of use!). Not sure where to start to improve patient enrollment and utilization of your portals? Here’s how to get patients to sign up for patient portals, and use them when they do.

What are the benefits of patient portals?

Patient portals are a relatively new way to improve communication between healthcare providers and their patients, with an estimated 92% of U.S. hospitals on board as of 2016.

With these portals, patients don’t need to wait on hold to get a question answered or refill a prescription anymore – they can log into the patient portal from the comfort of their home and get the information they need whenever it is convenient.

Other benefits of patient portals include:

Patient portals improve the accuracy of patient data and are more efficient for both doctor and patient. These two benefits alone are important for patients who are managing a complicated condition and need to visit multiple doctors.

But first you have to get them signed up.

How to get patients to sign up for a patient portal

There are many different ways to increase patient portal utilization. Once patients know all about the portal, how do you get them to sign up and actually use it, though?

Here are nine ways to improve patient portal engagement.

1. Enroll at the first appointment

You have worked hard to get new patients through your doors. Set the expectation of patient portal engagement from the very first appointment by making portal enrollment part of your intake procedure.

Signing up at the first appointment may take a few minutes in the beginning, but this one step will save your office time in the long run.

2. Auto-enroll to schedule online appointments

Do your patients prefer to schedule their appointments online? Point them to the patient portal from your website and use that to help get them enrolled.

This enrollment can trigger a series of emails that include appointment reminders (via text or email) and explanations of the patient portal’s other valuable features.

3. Include a link to the portal when patients sign in

If you have automated sign in for patients when they arrive for an appointment, provide a link on the sign in sheet so they can easily register while they wait.

Patients want convenience and ease, and if the portal is already in front of them they will be more likely to sign up.

4. Link your portal sign up on all correspondence

One of the main reasons patients don’t sign up for a patient portal is that they truly don’t know it exists. Fix that by adding the link to sign up on every bit of correspondence you send, whether through the physical mail or email.

Place a link in the signature of all of your staff for email correspondence, and get reminder cards and letterhead printed with the URL.

5. Optimize for desktop and mobile

There are concerns about patient portal engagement especially among low-income people, but optimizing for mobile can help level the playing field. Since over 67% of people in the U.S. have a smartphone these days, patient portals that are optimized for mobile can help increase patient use of the portal.

Of course, your patient portal should be lightning fast for desktop, too.

6. Empower all staff to sign patients up

Everyone from your lab techs to the doctor should know how to sign patients up for your portal and have the resources to do so easily at hand. Make sure your staff knows to check with patients on their participation, and provide every department with tablets or laptops for signing up.

Patients are more likely to sign up while they are in your office. Take advantage of that!

7. Offer incentives

Offering incentives can be a good way to encourage not only registration on your patient portal but also utilization of it. Consider things like offering a gift card for the first ten people who schedule appointments through the portal every month, or randomly enter newly-registered patients for a gift card drawing. Your incentives need not be extravagant. But, they can provide the extra push patients need to actively engage with the portal.

Incentives can apply to staff, too. Give bonuses (time off? a gift card?) for the staff member who signs up the most patients every month.

8. Bulk enroll patients

If your patient portal offers bulk enrollment, it can be a great way to enroll patients who haven’t responded to your other strategies. Upload all unenrolled patient emails into the portal, then send a reminder email for patients to pick a username and password (some portals let you assign a temporary username and password).

Once patients follow up, coordinate your email marketing strategy to send emails explaining the benefits of the portal and how patients can use it to their advantage.

9. Offer useful content

Let’s face it: the best way to boost patient portal engagement is to offer useful and engaging content. Use patient demographics and other information such as national health months (e.g., heart disease, breast cancer, etc.) to generate content that empowers and educates patients. Make sure patients understand that lab results and visit summaries will be delivered via the patient portal as well.

Give patients a reason to interact with the patient portal and watch your engagement soar!

Still have questions about how to get patients to sign up for patient portal? Let Boost Medical help. We have the tools you need to get your high-quality patient portal up, running, and filled with patients. Let’s get started today!