A Step-by-Step Guide to Implementing a New Patient Portal

June 8, 2020 | By Wendy Bartlett

A Step-by-Step Guide to Implementing a New Patient Portal

Patient portals have become a staple of the modern healthcare experience. The benefits speak for themselves for patients, practices, and providers alike: Patient portal technologies lead to better efficiency, engagement, satisfaction, and health outcomes.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that patient portal adoption has been on the rise in recent years. According to an MGMA survey, at least 90 percent of providers offer a patient portal solution, and the remaining 10 percent were working on implementing one.

However, launching a new patient portal can certainly prove challenging—at least without the right plan, resources, and support in place for onboarding and implementation. Implementing a new system is often a complex process, not only for technical reasons but also because of the various ways it impacts patients, staff, and daily operations.

Whether your practice is among the 10 percent without an existing patient portal or you already have one that’s simply not making the cut, your new solution will only be as effective as your strategy for rolling it out. Taking the right steps during implementation will help ensure the successful adoption of a new patient portal technology.

Key Benefits of Implementing a Patient Portal

Despite the potential challenges, there are numerous benefits of implementing a patient portal. By implementing a patient portal that checks off every box on your must-have list, you can positively impact:

Patient Satisfaction

By giving healthcare consumers the modern features and digital experiences they’re looking for from their providers, your practice can boost patient satisfaction and increase retention. In fact, 1 in 5 consumers said they had switched providers due to a poor digital experience—which is why offering a great patient portal is essential.

Practice Efficiency

Using patient engagement technology (and, more specifically, a patient portal) will help your practice improve efficiency by automating manual, time-intensive tasks that get in the way of patient care. This will help to reduce staff workloads and, in turn, decrease instances of practice staff and physician burnout

Patient Engagement

A great patient portal experience not only increases patient satisfaction but also engagement. When patients and healthcare consumers have access to medical records and the ability to connect with their providers, they’re much more likely to be engaged in their own care and to adhere to both medications and treatment plans.

Practice Growth

With increasing patient satisfaction comes increasing word of mouth—meaning more positive online reviews to help you attract more patients and grow your practice. When healthcare consumers are getting what they’re looking for from their provider(s), they’re more likely to recommend them to family and/or friends.

Health Outcomes

Patient portals can also positively impact individual health outcomes. Because patients are more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices and to be engaged in their own care with the right digital tools, access to a patient portal also leads to improved health outcomes. 

9 Steps to Implement a New Patient Portal Solution

Follow the steps below to help ensure the successful adoption of a new patient portal technology for your practice:

1. Research Different Portal Solutions

It’s never wise to select the first tool you come across, no matter how promising it may appear. Do your research and vet the patient portal vendor by learning as much as possible about the wide array of solutions on the market before making your decision. Then, you can make your selection based on your practice’s unique goals and priorities. 

When evaluating and comparing potential solutions, it’s also important to ask the right questions, such as:

  • Can the patient portal fully integrate with your electronic health record/patient management software?
  • Does the patient portal interface via a direct API integration?
  • Is dedicated customer and technical support available?
  • Will you need to install software or system updates?
  • What success has other organizations had using it?
  • How much implementation support will the vendor provide?
  • Does the vendor offer any training and/or best practices?
  • Does the vendor have any case studies they can share?
2. Look for the Right Portal Features

When researching potential solutions, look for the features and benefits that are most important for your practice and your patients. Not all patient portals are created equal, and some have more robust capabilities than others.

Key features to look for in a patient portal include:

  • An excellent user experience for all stakeholders
  • Bidirectional API integration with existing systems
  • Two-way secure messaging with attachments
  • Real-time appointment self-scheduling
  • Integration with intake, reminders, and surveys
  • Branding flexibility and customization
  • Access to patient-friendly lab results
  • Free mobile application 
  • Enhanced practice workflows

Also, look for a vendor with a portal migration utility, which helps practices avoid manually reregistering patients within a new system by migrating those who are already registered as part of the overall transition. This feature truly goes a long way in helping practices switch patient portals painlessly.

3. Get Buy-In from Key Stakeholders

Before you move forward with implementing new patient portal technology, getting buy-in from all key stakeholders is essential. The most effective implementations begin with every stakeholder on the same page and willing to adopt the new system. Communicate the features, benefits, and steps it will take to implement a new patient portal to get everyone on board before taking action.

4. Evaluate and Enhance Existing Workflows

Leading patient portals should differentiate themselves by providing proficiencies that enhance your practice workflows. Evaluating your practice’s existing workflows and identifying opportunities to enable new benefits—such as patient self-scheduling or previsit digital form completions—can deliver significant workflow enhancements.

5. Develop a Comprehensive Onboarding Plan

Your new patient portal will only be beneficial if your practice staff and patients know how to use it. Select a partner that provides consulting and onboarding to ensure you are successful with your new patient portal. 

This way, you can ensure you’re making the most of the new solution and taking full advantage of all the features it has to offer. Onboarding plans typically include details on patient portal integrations, training, timing, workflow changes needed, technical requirements, new policies, and roles and responsibilities.

6. Be Prepared for a Successful Go-Live

You can then make the patient portal available to the entire practice. When talking about the portal with patients, make sure to communicate the different benefits clearly and address any privacy concerns or questions they may have. To increase adoption, it’s important you market the new patient portal and raise awareness however possible.

7. Seek Out Painless Portal Migration

The idea of switching portals can strike fear in the heart of your staff who may believe that migrating already-registered patients to a new portal will be painful. Finding a patient portal vendor that performs migration as part of the overall transition to a new portal is crucial for staff buy-in and general ease of conversion. 

Also, look for vendors who help to configure all patient portal integrations—as well as clinical and demographic data from the vendor system to the portal—to make data transfer as seamless as possible.

8. Market Your New Patient Portal

Marketing is another important factor to consider: How will you market the patient portal to end users? Making sure that patients and healthcare consumers know about your portal—as well as how to access it—will help boost utilization and increase your likelihood of a successful implementation and rollout. 

You can do so by educating patients directly during both in-person and telehealth appointments, sending promotional emails inviting patients to use the portal, adding signage to your physical office space, and/or posting on social media channels.

Optimize Your Portal Over Time

From there, you only have one last to-do on your list: continually identifying ways to optimize your patient portal technology over time. By doing so, you can adapt and drive improvements to ensure your practice is set up for digital success—especially as healthcare changes, technology advances, and consumers’ preferences evolve.

Adopting a new patient portal technology may seem daunting, but with the right plan in place and an ideal vendor to partner with, you can make implementation as painless as possible. Schedule a patient portal demo to learn about the Healthy Outcomes solutions suite, which offers touchpoints throughout the entire patient journey.

This article was originally published in July 2020 and was updated and republished in June 2022.

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