Encouraging Patient Portal Use

Image-Enabling the Patient PortalYou’ve finally established a patient portal at your medical practice. It’s what your patients have said they wanted, and you can’t wait to see it put to use. Yet, a few months go by, and the portal doesn’t seem to have many logins. What is going on? How can you actually encourage patients to use the patient portal?

1) Let Patients Know That a Portal Exists

Don’t assume that patients are aware of your facility’s portal. While some patients may be savvy enough to inquire about the portal or actively check your website prior to their appointment, many will be unaware of this service or forget to ask. Consider printing a large sign or banner-stand to place by the front desk with information regarding the patient portal. Don’t stop there – leave handouts and literature on coffee tables and magazine stands, place a sign in the exam and lab rooms, and ask administrative staff to let the patients know about the portal upon check-in.

2) Evaluate Your Online (and Print if needed) Presence 

Is the sign-up call to action on your website clear? Did the email patients receive regarding the portal make sense? On average, your potential patients will only give your website or an email 3-5 seconds to gauge the above criteria and decide if they should stay or leave. During those few precious seconds, you need to grab their attention and get your message across. You’ll want to start with an informative headline that explains the most important part of your value proposition. Then, be sure to include a call-to-action button that quite literally prompts patients on what to do next. When it comes to colors, stick to 2-5 and keep them consistent across your website and printed materials.

When writing any content, be sure to simplify. Industry jargon will confuse patients and turn them away from using new features. Be sure to also use simple and clear fonts that are easy to read. This is particularly important for older patients who may have trouble with their eyesight. Tiny or cursive fonts will be a quick turn-off!

Facilities can also consider adding a real quote from a patient regarding the portal on any marketing materials. Adding a quote and even a photo of a real patient supports the credibility of the portal. Finally, don’t forget to optimize for mobile. Many of your patients will be accessing your website, emails, and the portal from their phones. Always test to see how everything looks on mobile.

3) Send Reminders Through More Than One Means of Communication 

Send patients an email or message, phone call, and text reminders a week out and day prior to an exam. Be sure to analyze your facility’s population when doing this. Are you generally servicing a tech-savvy age group? Just an email generated from a patient portal and text may be all that is needed. Do you have many older patients? A phone call along with a text and or email reminding them of the portal may be best here. Does your population need English language help? Be sure to send reminders in more than one language or with the option to hear another language.

Reminding patients of their appointments in more than one method is critical to reducing patient no-shows. A study published in the September issue of Current Problems in Diagnostic Radiology (Curr Probl Diagn Radiol, September 2018, Vol. 47:5, pp. 285-286), found that uncaptured revenue for the most common imaging exams was about $700,000 per year at an average-sized facility! That’s a lot of money and time wasted. 

4) Take Social Determinants Into Consideration 

According to the World Health Organization, the social determinants of health (SDH) are “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.” These are critical factors to take into consideration when determining how to promote your portal.

NYU Langone Health created a City Health Dashboard that provides information on social and economic factors, health behaviors, health outcomes, physical environment, and clinical care. Using this tool, a facility can see how their neighborhood fares and determine if additional reach out and education might be needed with their unique population. At Republic County Health, David-Paul Cavazos, Chief Executive Officer, noted the importance of providing patients with access to imaging, particularly in a rural area like his own where patients travel well over an hour and a half to larger facilities. They have developed a concierge approach where radiology takes a moment to make sure that patients have a working email address and show them how to use the image-enabled patient portal. These small steps have increased both portal usage and customer satisfaction.

Download the eBook: Providers Go All In to Meet New Consumer Demands

Catherine Slotnick, Marketing Manager

About Catherine Slotnick

Catherine Slotnick is a passionate healthcare marketer with a deep interest in the latest & greatest in the Health IT space. As Ambra Health's Director of Marketing, Catherine primarily focuses on creating and sharing thought leadership content in the radiology and informatics space. Catherine graduated from the University of Virginia with a BA in Psychology & Art History. When she's not writing, she enjoys cooking and petting dogs that aren't hers.

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