Patient Portals: 3 Ways to Engage Your Patients

April 9, 2014

Patient portals are an innovative and beneficial way for radiologists to communicate; you just have to use them.

Online communication platforms are changing the way people connect. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are just a few of the digital podiums facilitating conversations with individuals across the globe.  The medical industry is no longer shielded from this reality.  

Patient portals have been dubbed the “future of medicine” in healthcare.  Not only are there incentives, like Meaningful Use Stage 2, for institutions to adopt this technology, but medical communication platforms are also necessary to stay competitive in the digital age. 

Easier said than done, right? Implementing a patient portal in your practice is one thing, but actually getting individuals to utilize the technology is a whole different challenge. 

Here, I’ll recommended three ways you can ease your patients’ concerns to promote portal technology in your practice. 

1. Assure your patients that their medical records are secure on the portal.
In a recent survey launched by DICOM Grid on patient portal adoption and in research presented at RSNA 2013 detailing the RSNA Image Share Network, 70 percent of respondents stated that the security of their medical record remains a major concern. Even in the 21st century, individuals are still hesitant about submitting important health information online. The risk of having private medical information leaked causes many patients to shy away from using digital patient portals. One way to address this objection is by comparing the security methods to online banking. Assure your patients that their medical data is extremely safe online, and even take the time to explain the actual technology associated with the platform you choose. Providing your patients with as much information as possible will help ease any anxieties associated with utilizing this new technology.   

2. Explain that the portal will not replace other forms of communication.
In the medical world, face-to-face interactions will always be essential and no matter how technologically advanced our society becomes, personal contact with patients is key. Many people are concerned about technology becoming the main form of delivery from their care provider. One survey respondent mentioned, “I am always nervous when an email says, ‘You have important info from your doctor; please log on’ because I don't want to get bad news by email without the possibility of asking questions/follow up/counseling.” Assure your patients that online gateways will not replace other forms of communication; they will simply expedite the delivery of test results. Be sure to always follow up an online message with a phone call to allow people to ask questions about a medical diagnosis. 

3. Be sure the interface you choose is easy to use.
With an aging population, many of whom are not completely comfortable with technology, having an instinctive platform is essential. The interface should not be cluttered with unnecessary features. Instead, there should be few buttons and step-by-step instructions on the screen directing people through the site. One survey respondent commented, “The portals themselves are usually complicated and require a lot of information to sign up and then even more to actually use them. Their interfaces all seem like they were created in the late 90s and never updated. User-friendly, simple interfaces would be much better.” Don’t let your patient portal reflect a technological lag. Be sure your patient portal interface is up-to-date with the latest advancements and features. Additionally, it is helpful to have your medical staff take the time to show patients how to use the portal. While this may take some time, your patients will be more likely to use this technology in the future. 

By explaining online portals to your patients and easing some of their concerns, this technology is much more likely to become an integral part of your practice. If you put in the effort now, you will see great results in the future, and may even be viewed as a standard in the industry.  Patient portal promotion is essential. It’s time we, as doctors, did our parts.