Patient Portals and Patient Engagement
Patient portals are powerful tools that allow patients to access their health records and even enable appointment scheduling and communication with healthcare providers. Despite their growing importance and popularity, patient portals alone aren’t a solution for patient engagement.
What is a Patient Portal?
A patient portal is a secure online website that gives patients 24-hour access to personal health information from anywhere with an internet connection. By logging in to an account with a unique username and password, patients can view health information like medical records and lab results and communicate securely with their healthcare provider.
In May 2020, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) finalized federal rulemaking to increase patients’ and caregivers’ access, exchange, and use of electronic health information. This rule implements key provisions of the 21st Century Cures Act. The legislation requires certified health IT developers to adopt secure, standards-based application programming interfaces that enable individuals to access and manage their health records using a health application.
The top ways patient portals are used include:
The Problems with Patient Portals and Patient Engagement
Despite their growing popularity, not all patients want to use online portals. Below, view some of the top reasons patients do not want to use a portal.
The most common reasons included just simple patient preferences. Survey respondents preferred to use another channel to communicate with their healthcare providers. This survey data was collected before the Covid-19 pandemic began. Over the past two years, other surveys have identified a growing acceptance of digital health tools. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that not everyone prefers to use internet-based technology and provide alternate methods for engagement.
Another primary concern is technology access. Three factors accounted for over 50% of responses, including:
- Difficult to login (24%)
- Uncomfortable with computers (20%)
- Do not have a way to access the website (13%)
Not all patients can access a reliable internet connection or confidently use a computer. These barriers can prevent patients from accessing their medical information and highlight why providing multiple channels for patients to interact with their providers is essential.
Security concerns are not irrelevant either. With increasing threats to the healthcare industry, it’s understandable that some patients are hesitant to have their health information shared online. Providers must do more to secure their digital environment and earn patients’ trust.
Patient Engagement Challenges
Sending timely, personalized messages is critical to the success of patient engagement efforts. However, patient portals can also be a barrier to engagement if they are the sole vector for patient communication. Nearly 40% of patients never login into the portal, while only 18% log in more than six times a year.
If you attempt to send engagement messages via the patient portal, they will go unread by most of your audience. A simple forgotten password could prevent patients from accessing the portal for months, meaning they could miss out on timely messages about their healthcare.
In addition, patient portals do not support the creation of personalized messages at scale. These platforms were designed to send one-to-one messages about a patient’s upcoming appointment, lab results, and medical records and do not possess the same customization features as email marketing platforms.
Finally, most patient portals were designed to be data repositories and were not built to enable patient communication. Most send a vague notification email to the patient, letting them know a message is waiting. However, the burden is on the patient to log in and read the message. Most EHRs cannot even track who is opening and reading the messages! For healthcare marketers trying to identify the best patient engagement strategies, patient portals lack the analytics and data needed to define, track, and boost engagement.
Patient Engagement with No Portals: Secure Email Solutions
Patients expect a healthcare experience that is more like that of e-commerce. 90% of patients want to receive emails from their providers that apply to their health journey. By moving patient engagement activities out of the portal as much as possible, it opens up new possibilities for marketers. TLS-encrypted emails do not require passwords to read, and securely deliver information directly to inboxes.
Not all messages are appropriate to send via TLS-encrypted emails. Sometimes the security of the patient portal is preferred. Patient portals are an excellent place to store sensitive data and must be a part of the patient’s healthcare experience. It’s always a good idea to post highly sensitive data like test results and medical records in an encrypted portal and not send them via email because of possible interception and eavesdropping issues. However, by using secure email to send less-sensitive patient engagement messages, marketers can reduce barriers and promote precision nudging in a way that does not compromise data security.
Marketers will see better open and engagement rates by delivering the message directly to patients’ inboxes. Using a HIPAA-compliant email marketing solution enables the use of PHI to customize messages designed to guide patients on their healthcare journeys. Contact LuxSci today to learn about creating a flexible, data-informed patient engagement strategy.