Patient engagement – the latest trending healthcare buzzword- is becoming increasingly prioritized in the industry. Allowing patients to access personal information and take control of their health promotes greater well-being throughout the healthcare process. What better way to encourage patient engagement than with a patient portal? In fact, here are 7 ways patient portals enhance patient experience.

“What we’ll see over the next few years is… we’ll move from portal adoption being fairly episodic to it being embedded in the fabric of patient’s lives.”

-Sean Bina

VP of access applications at Epic

1. Access medical records

Patients are demanding around-the-clock access to personal medical records. Patient portals allow secure access in viewing test and lab results, revisiting provider instructions or reviewing patient medical history. Health systems have stepped up their game in response to this demand over the past few years. According to the Trend Watch Report by the American Hospital Association, 92% of hospitals allow patient medical record access in 2016, compared to 43% in 2013. Most hospitals also allow related tasks, such as downloading medical information, requesting changes to medical records and sending referral summaries to third parties.

2. Upload and update personal health information

Patients can also update their own health information as frequently as needed. Keeping track of procedure complications, prescription side effects, or even blood sugar readings for the next doctor’s appointment can be a challenge. With the ability to track these happenings in real-time, patients can provide more accurate information to their providers for each visit.

3. Send messages to physicians

Patient portals provide a secure form for patient-provider communication. When a doctor receives a message through the portal, they can easily access the patient’s health data and offer a specific response, all in one interface.

4. Get alerts for test results

Waiting for test results can add unneeded stress to anyone’s life. Portals alleviate this hassle by sending alerts to a patient once their results are in. The patient can then access personal test results at any time or place, and easily access the results repeatedly if needed.

5. Schedule appointments

In the busy life of an American, it can be difficult to call into a Doctor’s office during business hours and schedule an appointment. In fact, 40% of appointment scheduling happens after hours. Younger generations especially prefer completing tasks online versus making phone calls. Portals provide a scheduling system that allows a patient to book an appointment at their convenience, without any need for human interaction.

In fact, online appointment scheduling is becoming increasingly important to patients. According to a survey conducted by Accenture Consulting:

• 77% of patients find the ability to schedule online important.

• By 2020, 64% of patients will use digital tools to schedule appointments

• This digital transition will create a $3.2 billion value for health systems.

6. Access video appointments and eVisits with providers
Portals provide the capability for patients and providers to complete an appointment via webcam. In many cases, it is difficult for the patient to make it into the doctor’s office. However, these patients still need access to immediate care, which is why video appointments are extremely beneficial to patient health. Access to these services through portals is safe and secure.

7. Make payments
Collecting payments from patients often presents a struggle to healthcare practices. Bills are easy to ignore, and mailing in a payment can be complicated. It’s not surprising that 68% of consumers prefer electronic payments. Patient portals simplify the billing and payment process for both patient and practice, increasing the number of patients who pay their obligations. They also allow the time flexibility for patients to pay their bills at any time or location.

Patient portals clearly promote patient engagement in their own healthcare involvement. Patients who actively participate in the system tend to maintain a higher standard of health and have a better experience overall. A better experience keeps patients active in the system by continuing to make appointments and seek treatment, instead of avoiding the doctor’s office. Epic recently reported 68 million patients with portal accounts and believes that patient portal usage across health systems will significantly rise in the next few years.

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Heather Turnbaugh is the Content and Social Media Marketing Manager at MailMyStatements. She enjoys snowboarding, working out, and napping.

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