According to polling data, patients want to schedule appointments, pay bills and view records online, and most providers don’t offer this trifecta. It makes sense to start with these three basic capabilities because they’re relatively easy to install and attractive to patients.
Capterra, an organization that identifies ideal software solutions for specific business needs, talked to actual users (patients, in this case) to determine what’s optimal in the patient portal experience. Capterra has identified some core functional characteristics that the best solutions share.
- Make it easy to sign up and log in. Patients get frustrated and tend to not use the portal if the very first thing they must do is prohibitively complex. Choose or create a tool that has automated password recovery and that is available to patients any time, night or day.
- Give patients secure access to doctors. Patients want responses to medical questions from a doctor. Carefully consider this issue; patients told Capterra they don’t appreciate being shuttled to nurses or front office staff for answers to health questions.
- Enable attachments. Patients want to be able to send attachments to physicians via email. Yes, this could enable an avalanche of iPhone images of poison ivy rash, but it may also keep patients out of the clinic, saving time and money.
- Include automated alerts. Patients don’t want to just check occasionally to see if they might have a new message. They want to be notified electronically when something in the portal changes.
- Make it easy to schedule appointments online. Mentioned above as one of the three foundational patient portal capabilities, the ability to make online appointments eliminates one of your patients’ pet peeves: waiting interminably on the phone instead.
- Connect to the EHR. Many portals are a component in the broader EHR, and others are standalone but integrate with an EHR, so virtually all available solutions satisfy this requirement.
- Make it mobile. Human beings are taking their technology with them wherever they go. Most people check and respond to email on a mobile device now, and they want solutions that are optimized for both mobile and non-mobile platforms.
- Facilitate bill payment. Increasingly, just about every possible bill-paying scenario is available online. Moving forward, the patient-as-consumer will gravitate away from providers that can’t enable them to pay medical bills online as easily as they can pay the gas bill.