The days of being able to call up the family doctor and ask a question at any time are long gone in today’s world. However, maintaining that important one-on-one provider relationship is still possible, even though communication tools look a little different. Millions of patients and providers have come to appreciate the benefits of a patient portal, not only for the communication with the provider, but also for the readily available access to information.
A patient portal is exactly that – a door to communication that leads directly to their provider. It also provides easy access to medication lists, medical history, test results, and treatments. Payment and insurance info are also maintained all in one place for patients to easily view. Typically, all that is needed to set up a patient portal is a valid email address and a secure password. Usually, a secondary authentication is done for security purposes.
Patient portals are designed to be simple – with easy options and an email-like direct messaging platform. Patients do not have to be techy or computer-savvy to use the portal and will typically catch on very quickly. Portals can also be used by adult caregivers of elderly parents, and guardians of minor children to help manage care and balance busy lives. This direct line of communication helps providers increase both patient and caregiver satisfaction and enhances the in-person care given.
Providers get to know their patients better and improve bedside skills in the process. It is true that patients often think of important questions after the appointment, and also sometimes don’t remember everything that was discussed. The patient portal can be an important tool for education, fielding those important questions, and alleviating concerns. Providers often also realize that their patients are often asking a certain kind of question – enabling them to change their routine and answer those questions up front. Portals provide great feedback for providers and make it possible to continuously hone and improve communication skills.
Worried about a particular patient? See an urgent question come up that you need to address? At a conference? You can access the portal on mobile, tablet, or laptop – from any secure internet connection. While work/life balance is important for everyone, managing your time more effectively via the portal can be an important step in achieving that.
Research shows that patients that are engaged in their care have better outcomes. Have you ever asked a patient to record their blood glucose readings or blood pressures and report back to you? How often does that happen? Do you often get a crumpled piece of paper with incomplete numbers?
Using the portal for routine communication – even daily – can help your patient achieve better health and help you to provide better care. Medication adjustments can be made quickly and easily based on data reported, to help manage chronic conditions and fine-tune treatment. Teaching a patient to use the tools available to them, and then how those tools can impact daily life is extremely rewarding. The portal is the bridge that makes that collaboration possible.
Managing and monitoring portal questions may seem like just another task to add into an already packed day, but it can be a welcome addition to the workflow, and actually impact other areas of the day. Typically, many phone calls come in, most of which are handled by the front desk or the nurse. At the same time, voicemails are being monitored by the nurse as well. Messages are relayed, answers are given and relayed back – all of which is an unwieldy process with potential for miscommunications. With direct messaging from the portal, messages that can be answered easily by the nurse can be done so quickly, and others can be electronically forwarded to the provider. Reducing the back-and-forth communication and time taken to respond to messages is a major benefit of portals.
Instead of just another task, the portal becomes the primary method of communication, with greatly reduced volume of patient phone calls and messages. Portal messages also require patients to organize thoughts, present questions, and overall provides a better communication experience and more complete answers from the provider.
It is helpful for providers to maintain set hours that they use to work within the portal. Minimizing interruptions in both patient care time, and portal time is important to maintain focus. Many providers find that an early-morning session and a late afternoon session help manage the day and inbox flow.
With 24-hour connectivity can come loss of boundaries. It is important to protect personal time, while still maintaining great communication with patients. Providers often find it helpful to set the expectation that portal messages will be answered within 24 hours during the week, and on Mondays following the weekend. If you respond sooner, all the better – but you are not expected to respond constantly.
Another expectation that it is important to set within the provider-patient relationship is discussion of test results. Depending on how your individual portal is set up, sometimes patients can see test or procedural results as soon as they are available. This situation can add to anxiety, and lead to googling and second-guessing treatment options. It is important for the provider to consider all of this and discuss what results are available, and when they will be discussed in person. It is also a good idea to pre-manage any anxiety that you foresee from the results and follow up with a phone call if necessary.
With Novomedici, the patient portal is a standard part of our product – designed by a practicing M.D. for the way providers work. We know that patient communication is the heart of the care you provide, and every aspect of our products are designed to make your workflow effective and seamless.
Contact us for a free demo and answers to all of your questions about how your practice can benefit from our complete suite of EHR modules.