How an Online Portal Improves Patient Engagement and Satisfaction

Online patient portals – or websites connected to a patient’s EHR – can provide tremendous enhancements for pediatric family engagement and satisfaction. On the other hand, online portals can also be one of those offerings some parents argue is good in theory, but not in practice. Busy parents may be thinking: do I really need another email or text reminder? Or another login/password combination to remember? Or another app to download on my mobile device?

The short, simple, answer to these questions is: yes. Here’s how a portal can improve patient engagement and satisfaction, along with some tips to help your parents get on board with your portal.

Pediatric Patient Portal Benefits

Patient portals bring access to EHR data, but there’s more that can be offered to entice use and improve the patient and parent experience. A robust portal allows parents to:

  • Stay on top of immunization schedules
  • Receive important reminders about check-ups
  • Pay bills
  • Schedule appointments
  • Request a medication refill
  • Update contact information
  • Engage in secure messaging with the office or pediatrician which offers Parent/Patient communication touch points in between visits
  • Receive tips on chronic condition management
  • Better preparation for office visits such as completing developmental questionnaires prior to well visits

These benefits can greatly improve engagement with your practice, and help parents of children dealing with chronic conditions empower themselves and their children to take control of their health. Ultimately, when face-to-face interactions are needed, those experiences can also be more productive and beneficial for the parent and patient too.

“Research shows that when patients are able to see their own health data, they gain ownership of their own wellness and are better prepared to interact with their providers about their care,” said one Patient Engagement HIT report.

Additionally, if your patient portal is mobile-friendly, it can improve communication between doctor and parent/patient. In fact, about 58 percent of health professionals in one HIMSS survey connect with patients on a mobile-optimized portal. A well-used patient portal can also help to reduce call volumes for a pediatrician’s office, so staff can spend more time on patient care.

Getting Parents on Board

Of course, a great portal needs parent buy-in. One way to get parents on board with your portal is to take the time to educate them on its benefits and equally important is to show parents exactly how the technology works.

Begin the parent buy-in with advertising the patient portal around the practice. Use brochures or flyers explaining how the portal will help and include instructions on how to register. Create an atmosphere of excitement. Start the message of benefits at the front desk and continue with the clinical staff and providers to create a stronger adoption of the patient portal.

“Evidence shows patients are more likely to access their portal when clinicians and staff incorporate touch points in workflows to demonstrate and discuss the value of portal use,” according to the Improving Patient Engagement Through Health IT playbook by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC).

Some of those touch points can include: a video in the waiting room, during check in and check out, after-visit summary print-outs and even during exams while vitals are being taken. You can even assign support staff with the task of actually helping parents log in for the first time. Well visits are a far better time to educate them about the portal; the parent may be more open to listening, as he or she isn’t dealing with the stresses of a sick child.

Understanding your audience is another critical factor in helping parents engage with your technology. Of course, a tech-savvy population with access to mobile devices will need a mobile-friendly portal, but if a segment of your population has technology limitations, you’ll need to keep those in mind when developing this web tool. And don’t forget, your actual pediatric patients are growing up with technology. So, by showing mom and dad the benefits of the tool, you’re also educating a second future user.

By making your portal user-friendly and prioritizing touch points where your audience can be informed of its benefits, your practice can take powerful steps towards improving patient engagement and satisfaction. And on the business development side of things, you’re also building your practice’s future brand ambassadors.

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