Power in the Portals: How to Get Patients at the Center of Care

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By CereCore Media Coverage | Oct 28, 2021

2 minute read Technology| Blog

Cued by the pandemic, more patients than ever use EHR patient portals. If recent findings from Coherent Market Insights (CMI) are any indication, the global patient portal software market is expected to climb 7.6% CAGR in the next five years, demanding a greater need than ever for positive experiences that build patient loyalty and satisfaction. Patients’ ability to call, chat or ping a knowledgeable support person has become a first line of contact with the organization, and all it takes is one negative experience to send patients packing.

In a recent HIMSS TV Digital Checkup interview hosted by Bill Siwicki, CereCore’s Director of Customer Support Chris Wickersham spoke about the importance of patient portals in building a more modern infrastructure model. Chris also shared some of his team’s top learnings from the past 18-months of the pandemic, the most pressing pain points, and his thoughts on where the future of patient portals is headed.

A Modern IT Infrastructure

As Chris explained, the pandemic accelerated a need for patient portal support unlike anything the industry has seen before. Not only did the spread of COVID turn the industry on its head, but it also amplified a need for telehealth visits in an effort to continue preventative care while mitigating spread of the virus. Gone are the days of crowded waiting rooms and ringing phones at the doctor’s office. Today’s visits can lie at the hands of the patient, often with the click of a button.

Telehealth, defined by the Mayo Clinic as “the use of digital information and communication technologies, such as computers and mobile devices, to access health care services remotely and manage your health care,” lies at the intersection of the patient portal as this is the place where most appointments are scheduled.

Takeaways from a Pandemic World

While the events of the past 18 months have certainly brought challenges for providers and patients, there have been plenty of positive takeaways. As Chris explained, the main bright spot was a more intentional focus of putting power in the patient’s hand. Thanks to the patient portals, CereCore has seen the following:

  • 500-600% increase in scheduling/visits via the patient portal compared to pre-COVID times
  • Faster diagnostic results available in the patient portal (no more waiting weeks for results)
  • Increased connectivity between patients and providers

Among the challenges associated with this new digital reality was the need to ramp up an approximately 3–4-year project into a 3–4-week timeframe. The strong level of support matrixes needed to bridge the technological gap between patients and providers took a great deal of work on the backend to ensure systems worked flawlessly. It also takes a knowledgeable and patient leader on the support desk to educate patients through the various intricacies of using the patient portal properly, such as setting up their profile, finding their specific provider, messaging their doctor about lab results, Rx refills and more.

The Importance of Patient Portals

One of the main reasons patient portals are so important, per Chris, has to do with ultimately putting the power of patient information into the hands of the patient. It is extremely beneficial in the advancement of a modern IT infrastructure to give patients as much access into their health records as possible, whether it’s the ability to access history from past appointments, notes from their doctor or information about their medication.

Chris explained that the first step is actually getting the patient signed up for the portal. After that, it’s vital to keep the patient logging in. Initial engagement is one factor, but retention is a close second.

The results from effective patient portal support can be seen in many ways: reduction in health care costs, increase in patient satisfaction and greater accessibility to patient data, to name a few.

The Future of Patient Portals

When looking ahead, Chris predicted that a lot can change in the next 3-5 years. Two areas he highlights are:

  • Introduction of new peripherals into the patient experience, such as new devices that provide clinical readings to providers within the patients’ homes
  • More integration of third-party applications

Both of these areas aim to give providers a better sociological understanding of what patients are experiencing, and in turn result in more prescriptive healthcare.

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