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Customer Experience and Design

Building a Patient Portal: How to Improve Engagement

Michael Porter, who leads Perficient’s Portal practice, posted a blog yesterday called “If You Build a Patient Portal Why Won’t They Come?” This article is a response to a post of the same title by by Steve Wilkins and also relates closely to a recent post on our blog by Marcie Stoshak-Chavez. Michael does a great job of giving background on patient portals as well as providing his insights on what can make a portal more successful. Here is part of Michael’s response to the original article:

A lot and I mean A LOT of hospitals, clinics, doctors, etc are spending many cycles getting it all to work. Much of that work is brute force labor just getting a myriad of systems to talk to each other. In many ways, it’s a classic systems integration play. However, even after you get a site up and running, you may face problems. How do you actually engage the users of the patient portal to come and use it?

Steve Wilkins brings up some interesting issue the Mayo Clinic has had in increasing usage.

Upon reflection, Manley admits that “simply making services available doesn’t cut it.”

“Unless you are engaging patients, you won’t meet meaningful use requirements. [Messaging and other mechanisms] need to be a part of your practice.”

Manley is quoted as saying that “patient engagement has been a part of what Mayo has done for a long time. Meaningful use, especially Stage 2, is a catalyst to kick it up a notch.”

In many ways, this challenge has more to do with classic consumer engagement scenarios faced by those who run commerce sites or who are trying to create a community. I love the quote, “simply making service available doesn’t cut it.” I think that quote hits it on the head. Steve does have three suggestions as to why just throwing out some data on a site won’t work:

1. Forcing patients to do anything is wrong and antithetical to the whole idea of patient-centeredness, even if you think it is in the patient’s best interest. Meeting meaningful use seems to take precedence over what the patient wants. Manley is quoted as saying “just having it [information and portals] out there isn’t enough … it’s making the patient use them.”

2. Patients want to engage with other people regarding their health, particularly their physicians. Health after all is an intensely personal and social affair. Mobile health apps and email just can’t give patients want they want – to be listened to and understood. Plus, 85% of people want face-to-face access to their physician when they want it. Patients know that HIT threatens to get in between them and their doctors.

3. The content on most patient portals is not particularly relevant or engaging after the first 10 seconds, at least from the patient’s perspective. After all, cognitive involvement is a prerequisite of meaningful engagement and it tough to be interested and spend time thinking about information that is not in context (of a medical encounter), you don’t understand, find boring, completely inaccurate or irrelevant.

Michael goes on to discuss his recommendations for making a portal successful. You can read his entire post here. What other ways do you know of to improve patient portals?

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Jamie Churchill

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