Patient portals are designed to provide patients with instant access to their health information online. This self-service platform enables patients to obtain their health histories, lab results, discharge summaries, immunizations and physician notes from any internet-enabled device, at any time. According to a report from the American Hospital Association, approximately 92 percent of patients are able to view their medical records online. Patient portals make it possible for patients to play a critical role in their health management.
What Exactly Is A Patient Portal?
A patient portal is a type of secure website that is accessible by patients around-the-clock. Patients are given unique log-in credentials that allow them to securely enter the portal and obtain sensitive health information that is not available publicly on the web. Using an internet connection, a patient portal allows patients to view a wide range of health information, such as recent doctor visits, allergies, medications and test results. Some patient portals also allow patients to schedule appointments, request prescription results, securely send messages to doctors, make payments, update contact information, check benefits, view educational resources, and download or complete health forms.
Patient portals were created to improve how healthcare providers and patients interact. Patients are provided with timely access to their healthcare data and providers gain an opportunity to increase patient engagement, manage costs, promote loyalty and streamline workflows. There are two primary types of patient portals: standalone systems and integrated service. Today, many businesses use integrated patient portal software that comes as part of a comprehensive EHR system, EMR system or practice management software.
When patients are given the ability to access their own personal medical records through a secure online platform, they are able to play a more active role in their own health care. Caregivers can also greatly benefit from patient portals as they allow parents and representatives for the elderly to easily obtain the information needed to provide a better level of care. Patient portals offer primarily self-service options that can also help eliminate the need for back-and-forth emails or phone calls with doctors. In some cases, it can also eliminate the need for a physical visit to the doctor’s office.
Features To Look For In A Patient Portal
Many hospitals, clinics and private practices across the country offer self-service portals to their patients. However, not all patient portals offer the same features and functionality. Some of the top features to implement into a custom patient portal include:
Patients expect the registration process to be fast and simple which is not always practical when completed within a hospital or office setting. Many patient portals offer digital patient registration forms that patients can complete online in just a few minutes. Enabling patients to register online can help health providers reduce the burden on front-desk staff and encourage better patient communication. Online registration also reduces the risk of clinical errors, streamlines patient flow and delivers end-users with a holistic view of the patient’s medical history.
When developing a custom patient portal, the interface is of critical importance. When interfaces are difficult to navigate or contain too many elements, it can be challenging for users to effectively use them. Patient portals must have a user-friendly interface that runs smoothly and does not crash or freeze. Working with an experienced custom software development team can ensure a well-built design that delivers a seamless user experience.
The ability to send private and secure messages between healthcare providers and patients is an important feature. Encrypted messaging capabilities are a modern alternative to face-to-face medical appointments which allows patients to ask questions or address concerns without having to schedule an appointment or travel to the doctor’s office. This can be highly beneficial for patients who reside in remote areas, do not have transportation or have mobility issues. Encrypted messaging features must meet all privacy laws and security regulations, including HIPAA.
Many patient portals now support integration with EHR systems. However, when the open API (Application Programming Interface) is expanded, health care facilities can also connect to third-party health solutions, such as sleep trackers, glucose monitors and step counters. Patients then have the opportunity to connect their wearable e-health devices with the portal and automatically sync their health data. This information is then shown in real-time and can be seen by both the patient and their provider, and possibly aid in a treatment plan.
Another useful feature to consider adding to a custom patient portal are push notifications. Patients often lead busy lives and may forget about upcoming appointments or lab results. With push notifications, patients can opt in to get automatically notified when new updates are uploaded to the portal, such as a blood test result or a prescription refill. This feature can save patients time by not having to continually check the portal for updates.
Access To Resources
The healthcare industry is vast and it is not possible for healthcare providers to deliver all of the information a patient may need to learn more about their health or a particular condition. For this reason, many patient portals provide access to educational resources that allow patients to search for the information they need directly from the software. Patient educational materials can range from explanations of medical terms to detailed FAQ sections.
Importance Of Developing A Patient Portal
Healthcare providers are commonly encouraged to develop portals for their patients and the reason is clear: Patient portals are one of the best ways to encourage patients to obtain the answers they seek without having to directly contact their physician or front desk staff. There are many benefits of developing a patient portal, such as the following:
Streamline Administrative Tasks
Registration forms can be completed electronically through patient portals before the appointment time to streamline check-in when the patient arrives. Other forms can also be completed online, such as health histories and explanations of health concerns. Administrative tasks can consume a significant amount of an employee’s time in the office but patient portals help reduce the frequency of manual tasks through greater efficiency.
Enhanced Patient Communication
Not all questions or concerns require a phone call or trip to the doctor’s office. When patients have non-emergency questions or concerns, a patient portal can be an excellent resource. Many portals contain chat or messaging functions that allow patients to schedule appointments, request prescription refills or ask for referrals without having to call. This also allows front desk staff more time to respond to the most urgent patient needs and questions.
Optimize Workflow In The Office
Patient portals enable patients to complete many tasks electronically on their own which would otherwise require the assistance of staff. When patients are able to complete simple tasks on their own, it redirects the employees’ time to other core activities. The office is able to maintain a better flow, allowing patients to receive better care.
Developing A Custom Patient Portal
Many healthcare facilities choose EHR software solutions integrated with patient portals. Integrated patient portals can be a highly effective way to approach a self-service platform for patients, but providers should not immediately discount the option of standalone solutions. When making the decision for a custom patient portal, there are several steps that should be taken:
- Set a Budget – Custom patient portals are available at all price points. Take the time to decide features that should be included and which ones can be eliminated to save money. Discuss portal requirements with a custom software developer and request a quote based on the facility’s unique needs.
- Narrow Down a Design – First impressions are paramount; the design of the portal will be the first thing patients see when they reach the website. Ensure that the design is neat, easy to navigate and contains important elements including the facility’s logo. Also pay attention to the color scheme, background images and the position of the portal box on the page.
- Offer Language Options – Patients come from all backgrounds and may speak one or more languages. A patient portal should have the capability to display content in different languages to accommodate all end-users. Patient portals are often customizable to allow patients to set their portal to languages including English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese or Italian.
- Select a Name and URL – Some of the most important components of a patient portal are the name and URL. Portal names often reflect the name of the business but can differ based on the preferences of the facility. The URL should be simple and easy to remember for patient convenience.
- Add Recognizable Images – Enhance the appearance of the patient portal with health-related images or videos. Many patients interact more with pages that contain media instead of only blocks of text. Image resolution should be of high quality to avoid blurry photos.
- Consider Mobility – Patients often access their health information on their smartphone or other devices. For this reason, patient portals should be accessible on all types of devices.
Speak To A Custom Software Development Team
Patient portals offer an excellent way for individuals to stay involved with their own health care by connecting with educational resources and accessing their own medical records online. Portals can provide patients with peace of mind by having the ability to see their health data anytime, anywhere without waiting for a call from their doctor.
Developing a custom patient portal requires the guidance of an experienced custom software development team. Orases is one of the leading healthcare software development companies in Maryland that specializes in the creation of custom patient portals for healthcare providers. For more information or to discuss an upcoming portal project, schedule a consultation with the professionals at Orases today.