The New Age of Communication: Step Up Your Game With a Patient Portal
By Drew Stevens, PhD
In the age of technology, everyone, including the patient, is seeking faster, easier ways to communicate. With a wealth of social media, blogs, websites and videos, we are constantly barraged with information – to the point of overload. To that end, patients are seeking alternative means to communicate with chiropractors and their staff. It appears with chiropractic offices busier and visitation gaps longer, patients desire easier ways to connect with their DC about their health. Enter the patient portal, which provides benefits to both doctor and patient. Let's learn more.
Basics of the Portal
As you may or may not know, a patient portal is an internal website that enables patients to communicate with their chiropractor's office (and vice versa) easier than using email or multiple forms of social media. Featuring a dedicated server and third-party software, patient portals enable patients to schedule appointments online; email their chiropractor about health issues, exercise prescriptions, etc.; gain valuable information in the form of a newsletter; access information on vitals; as well as many other options (depending on what the chiropractor chooses to make available). Using a secure username and password, patients can view a variety of health information.
Key Features / Benefits for Patient and DC
Diagnosis – With access to their diagnosis, the patient can better understand treatment and initiate informed conversations with you about their care plan.
Number of treatments and recommended continuance – Every chiropractor offers not only remedies for immediate pain relief, but also a strategy to remain pain free. A patient portal can give patients access to information on recommended number of treatments and continuance of care.
Laboratory results – Many doctors conduct blood or urine analysis. A patient portal can store the results of labs so the patient can review them without having to call the office and request a copy.
X-ray results – Some portals allow uploads of digital materials, allowing the patient to better understand their X-rays.
Posture analysis – Software and mobile apps are available that enable you to upload pictures of the patient's posture. Before-and-after photos illustrate the value of treatment to better align the body.
Secure email – Patients often have questions about their condition / care, but rather than call the front desk, they would rather send an email. This is particularly true for Millennials and Gen Zers, who generally prefer such communication. Private emails are a great way to converse with you / your office between visits.
Schedule non-urgent appointments – For solo practitioners and busy offices, this feature is terrific. Many portals enable patients to choose their appointments electronically or reschedule, eliminating human interaction. The patient receives an email confirmation that their appointment has been scheduled.
Review EOB – Patients often wonder what their insurance covers (and doesn't cover). Being able to review their Explanation of Benefits helps them understand what the insurer covers and what they (the patient) are responsible for.
Update contact information – Some chiropractors do not have a central repository for frequent patient communication; a patient portal allows patients to provide updates to their home address, phone / email, and the best way to receive information / communications from your office.
Make payments – Rather than worry about collecting fees before a visit, or for those with accounts receivable, a patient portal can ensure you do not have lengthy receivables by enabling patients to pay online.
Download and complete forms – To help save time and eliminate the potential challenge of reading poorly handwritten forms, patient intake forms can be made available on a patient portal. This saves at least 15 to 20 minutes per patient in the waiting room prior to an initial visit.
View educational materials – Doctors must remain communicative with patients while continually providing value to remain top of mind. Information on posture, ergonomics, stress reduction, joint health and dietary recommendations are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the information you can provide via a patient portal.
Patient Engagement and Self-Management: Two Major Benefits
There are a variety of definitions – and suffice to say that it has become a buzz phrase – but patient engagement is defined as the communication, collaboration and coordination provided by health care providers to ensure a positive patient outcome with limited obstacles. To a certain extent, one might align patient engagement with customer service. You must ensure successful engagement from the time the office phone is answered or the patient enters your practice until the time the patient concludes conversations with office staff.
The notion behind a patient portal goes far beyond simple patient engagement with your practice. Patient engagement is also aligned with providing the patient a means of self-managing care. According to research from Athena Health, "35% of U.S. adults have gone online to figure out a medical condition; of these, half followed up with a visit to a medical professional." The proliferation of the Internet has created a dearth of searches in health care, from disease and wound care to chiropractor reviews. The same report from Athena Health indicates, "63% of adult cell phone owners now use their phones to go online, a figure that has doubled since 2009. In addition, 34% of these cell Internet users say that most of their online use is via cell phone. That means 21% of all adult cell phone owners – about 1 in 5 – now do the majority of their online browsing via mobile phone, not another device such as a desktop or laptop computer."
With this type of usage, more patients will review, if available, health statistics such as vitals, weight, medication, exercise or even symptoms. These searches will then lead to some form of communication with a chiropractic office. This self-managed method creates more power to users because they have more information available to them than in previous years. Thus, the patient portal becomes an ideal means of engaging the patient in their own health.
Adapt and Adopt
Change in an increasingly technological world is about adaptation and adoption; it is also about leadership communication. If you throw your full support behind the concept of a patient portal, explain the benefits and uses of the technology as a means of achieving better efficiency, then your patients and staff will adopt it quickly. Why? Because a patient portal increases efficiency, improves communication, enhances workflow and increases your ability to return your patients to health. Discover today what a portal might do for your practice.
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