Is your patient portal failing? The story of rewarding “A” while hoping For “B”

Top five reasons why you should consider add-on solutions

Are you staring at your under utilized patient portal and asking, “how did we get here?” It’s basically the most unused healthcare technology that every health system had to have in order to meet Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use criteria for the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. Health systems were incentivized through reimbursements to install patient portals to improve patient engagement and management of care. And those reimbursements were the end of the benefits that most organizations have experienced with patient portals. Patients don’t use the portal because it’s unfamiliar to them, they don’t know it exists or they view it as inconvenient because it’s not user friendly. 

According to a 2016 Grand View Research report, the patient portal market was valued over $1.1 billion in 2015 and is expected to grow by nearly 18% each year for the next 8 years. Ironically, the 5th Annual Xerox EHR Survey stated that 64% of Americans do not use patient portals. If this were any other industry, this would be considered very bad. The question is: how does a market continue to grow each year when an overwhelming majority of its target population doesn’t use it? Historically, patient engagement tools have driven more engagement from the already engaged. While add-on solutions improve patient engagement with the portal, some big EMR vendors have tried to lock out best-in-breed solutions from integrating with the EMR. But they are losing that battle because each year, more and more sophisticated solutions enter the market that integrate and provide real and true solutions. 

Step one to fixing the problem is to identify the right one. The problem to be solved is not low portal usage, but low patient engagement. How do we drive higher engagement? By using best-in-breed solutions to augment your portal. Here are the top five reasons why you should seriously consider augmenting your patient portal:

1. Add-on solutions create multiple access points
Lets face it, there is not one standard way patients engage. Engagement varies based on the persona of the patient. By using solutions that augment the portal, you can engage patients from whichever method they prefer. Google search? No problem. Some solutions such as online appointment scheduling, can integrate a scheduling widget directly into the Google search page. This is also the case for other search websites such as Yahoo, Bing, Yellow Pages, etc. With an EMR-provided patient portal, the only place you can catch the attention of the patient is the health system website. By being everywhere your patients are, particularly when they are seeking care, you are engaging them on pathways they user and trust. 

2. The Primary goal of patient engagement is better health outcomes, a close second is driving loyalty for your brand
The more you put your brand out there, the more it will become recognized and top of mind. Repetition is key for brand recall. We all know the Kaisers and Mayos of the world, and that is because they are good at spreading the word about everything they do whether it is cutting edge research, acquisitions or the utilization of breakthrough medical technology. These health systems know that the more they expose and repeat their brand across the healthcare ecosystem, patients will position their brand as synonymous with quality healthcare. Therefore, the more patients see your brand, the more that their brain will register your brand as top of mind when it comes to healthcare. It is all about repetition. Your patient portal currently doesn’t have the means to expose the brand across the consumer marketplace. It only lives within your EMR and on your health system website.

3. The name best-in-breed says it all: they are the best at what they do
The pendulum has swung way too far towards standardizing your application stack. Your EMR is probably decent across the board. It has to be. Since it has to cover all of the bases, it is spread pretty thin. This is great when trying to cover the entire IT infrastructure of an entire hospital or health system but it leaves little room for specialization. This is where add-on solutions come into the picture because they are primarily focused on one area and are expert solutions within that niche. Specialized solutions have the capacity to be the best in its space and truly optimize the department or process that needs to be focused on. Your patient portal wasn’t designed to be specialized. It was an afterthought. It was created to capitalize on a federal mandate.

To put this into perspective, let’s use surgery as an example. I bet you would not go to a general surgeon for a  quadruple bypass you  would go to a cardiothoracic surgeon. Patient engagement is complex and many have failed trying to solve it. Stakes are high - You need a specialist there. 

4. Add-on solutions can increase flexibility of your EMR
Most leading EMRs were built in the last century. They were originally designed to be downloaded to a desktop and/or installed within a network, and have been slowly trying to migrate to more innovative, cloud-based platforms. That said, the chances of patients being able to use the patient portal on any device besides a desktop is slim. Luckily, cloud-based solutions that integrate with EMRs are developed and designed to be responsive. Patients have the ability to access these solutions from any device whether it be a smart phone or a tablet. You can improve engagement by being at patients’ fingertips.

5. Integrated solutions increase the ROI of your huge EMR investment
By optimizing your EMR beyond its capabilities, you are getting more for your investment at a smidgen of the price you spent on your EMR. Why not make your EMR the best it can be? As long as the add-on solutions have live integrations with your EMR, it is a no-brainer to utilize these solutions to boost the success of the EMR across all departments who use it. Particularly, the revenue generating departments. For the past decade, health systems have been focused on removing costs to improve the bottom line. They haven’t wanted to spend any more money on IT after the big investment of its EMR. However, now is the time to implement long-term strategic solutions that will bring in previously untapped revenue. Various solutions allow you to capture this, such as having the ability to schedule appointments online 24/7, not just when the office is open during business hours. Your patient portal is part of the EMR package; without it being utilized fully for revenue generating purposes, it won’t impact your bottom line very much, if at all.