Decreasing expensive medical interventions while improving patient outcomes is a worthy goal for any healthcare provider. A recent study from Kaiser Permanente found that access to mHealth resources helped meet these goals by improving the care management and general health of patients.
According to the study, patients who used patient portals to access their health information were more likely to stay in contact with their PCPs and avoid hospital visits. Portal access helped patients by increasing engagement, helping to identify unmet health issues and decreasing the potential for ER visits and hospital admissions.
It takes a well-designed patient portal, however, to achieve these results. Craig Cooper with AdvancedMD, an ambulatory healthcare technology company, discussed the basics of an effective portal. The top portal requirements for patients include:
- Secure messaging
- Online scheduling
- Access to lab and procedure results
- Medication refills
- Patient education
Additional pointers from Cooper include:
- A patient portal has different design requirements from a website. The size and location of clickable elements, using high contrast between colors and text and accounting for mobile platforms are key components when designing a patient portal. However, providing a scaled-down mobile version of the portal from the desktop version is not a good idea, because patients have to adapt when moving from desktop to mobile versions of the portal.
- To increase patient use and engagement with the portal, the provider and staff must be proactive and learn the portal for themselves so they can talk about it and its use with their patients. Providers must also be diligent about monitoring the portal to provide timely and appropriate interaction with patients.
- Not everything works well in a portal, especially documents and images. Plan carefully when considering adding forms and documents to your portal.
- Some functions specific to mHealth-enabled portals include push notifications/alerts, text communications and e-payment options for paying securely on a smartphone.