What Questions Should My Practice Ask When Evaluating Patient Portals?

With the rise of ‘patients as a customer’ and increasing patient demands to have information easily accessible and right at their fingertips, many clinics are implementing patient portals. A patient portal is a secure online website that gives patients convenient 24-hour access to personal health information from anywhere with an Internet connection. It provides patients with the convenience they want. And it allows you, the provider, to enhance your patient-provider communication, thereby creating a better overall patient experience.

With dozens of options, it’s important to ask yourself several key questions when evaluating patient portals to ensure you’re making the right decision. Most providers immediately focus on cost and whether or not the patient portal will work with their EHR. However, there’s more to consider.

Here are 5 key questions you should also address:

1. What Information Do My Patients Want Access To?

It’s important to first understand what your patients want, and then ensure that your patient portal offers that. Implementing a patient portal is time and cost-intensive. It also requires your patients’ buy-in. They have to feel that it’s worth logging in.

So, before investing your time and money, ensure that the patient portal you decide to go with offers the features your patients are most interested in and will use. You want to make sure your patients will use the portal.

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2. How Does It Comply With HIPAA Regulations?

When sharing any personal information, it’s important to ensure that it’s being shared through a secure server. The patient portal should have secure measures in place, as well as a clear plan to show you how it’s complying with HIPAA and ensuring your customers’ information is kept safe.

3. Is It Customizable?

One size does not fit all. What works for one practice won’t be exactly what another practice needs. And the information made readily available to patients may differ patient to patient. So, it’s important to find out whether or not the patient portal can be customized to fit your needs. Customization should include more than branding and logo integration.

As this company stated, “Every patient population is different, and a patient portal needs to take into account those differences. In fact, a truly customizable patient portal will allow healthcare organizations to create multiple portals for different populations while still giving the user a unified experience.” The portal should also take into account that each patient is unique. Health IT Outcomes suggests that “the patient portal should allow for recommendations and educational content to be tailored to [patients’] specific medical conditions, age and/or sex.”

“The patient portal should allow for recommendations and educational content to be tailored to specific medical conditions, age and/or sex.”

4. Is It Compatible With Mobile Devices?

You have to meet your patients where they’re at. And they’re on-the-go and constantly connected to mobile devices. Your patient portal needs to be mobile compatible.

5. Who Will Be In Charge of Managing It?

This question is easy to overlook in the initial stages of considering patient portal options. However, it’s a very important question to ask earlier rather than later. There’s a lot to manage up front when implementing a patient portal. Who from your practice will be in charge of managing the portal and communicating these new features to patients?

You should ensure you have a plan in place for educating staff on how to use the portal, as well as giving your staff the proper information and training to explain to patients how to use it, as well.

While implementing a patient portal may be time-intensive up front, it will save you a ton of valuable time in the long-run, while also increasing your patient satisfaction.

Tashfeen Ekram, MD, is a radiologist, self-taught coder, healthcare innovator and Co-Founder of Luma Health. Contact him on Twitter at @tashfeenekramMD.

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