In a recent chat with the VP of a large health system, I learned what keeps him up at night. His organization, like many across the nation, has invested mountains of time and money in Meaningful Use Stage 2. Like most health systems (all but 11% says research groups like KLAS) they chose to invest in the patient portal modules available through the EHR vendor. This is largely because most Meaningful Use patient portal decisions are being made by IT, as opposed to business. At the top of the list in IT decision making criteria is integration with EHR. So, VPs like my new friend at this large health system are able to cross off the features required via Meaningful Use quite easy. All except one…
They are having a heck of a time getting patients to actually adopt the patient portal technology.
It appears as though the “if we build it they will come” concept hasn’t quite held true in the case of patient portal. In fact, the statistics are rather staggering. Recent research discussed in the HealthData Management article entitled “Patient Portals Not Yet Go-To Platform for Patients” reveals:
- Almost half of patients don’t even know if their physician has a patient portal
- 11 percent are confident their physician “does not” offer one
And here is the kicker for a recovering marketer like myself:
- Less than half of those surveyed–49.2 percent–report actually being shown a patient portal by their primary care physician either during a visit or outside a visit
And why is this keeping folks like my VP friend awake at night? Well, first and foremost it is because healthcare providers like him are fans of patient engagement and want to provide patients with the tools they need to stay healthy. Taking it a step further, Meaningful Use Stage 2 is a financial incentive. The criteria for getting those incentive dollars are not met when you build a patient portal. They are met when a critical population of patients adopts the technology. Early results are in, and patients are not adopting.
So, what’s the the underlying problem here? Well, it’s multifaceted, but much of the error falls in building patient portals that are not user centric. he user, the patient, is and should be the center of our universe. However, it is oftentimes not the department of IT, the department largely in charge of Meaningful Use, that invests in stores of knowledge like user experience. I’ve also been met with many blank stares across conference room tables when I ask healthcare provider portal teams about campaigns their marketing team have created to drive attention to the portal and journey maps that have been created across their patient digital experience to drive patients into the portal. In my opinion, Meaningful Use is one of the biggest marketing fails I’ve seen in my career thus far. There is not alignment between IT and the rest of the organization on the measures needed to drive patient engagement. In my opinion, which has now been validated by this research, a campaign that does not also consider physician adoption of portal technology is a campaign waiting to fail. If the physicians are not using it, then their patients will not either.
This is why I began the dialogue a few of months back on what the market says you need in your patient portal. The market, which in reality is simply cumulative actions of patient populations, is the most important input into the creation of a successful patient portal. You can see some of the components of a user centric patient portal in that series:
- Telehealth Beyond the Virtual Visit
- Dynamic Scheduling
- Gamification & Serious Games
- Avatars for Personalized Coaching
- Integration of Data
- HIE Across Diverse Care Settings