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Why patient portals remain healthcare's enigma

Brian Eastwood | Sept. 3, 2014
Healthcare's ongoing effort to fix patient engagement has been stymied by a widespread inability to improve patient portal adoption. In an era when consumers can do just about anything online, healthcare IT leaders are often at a loss to explain why so few patients – and physicians – embrace tools for online collaboration.

If You Build It, Will They Come?

So what will get patients to use a portal? It's not as hard as providers may think. The functionality that patients told Software Advice that they want scheduling appointments, paying bills, viewing lab tests, refilling prescriptions and emailing staff should sound familiar (on the face of it, at least) to anyone who regularly uses ecommerce applications.

One size, though, doesn't fit all. Older patients (and men) are more interested in appointment and prescription refill requests, Software Advice finds, while younger patients (and women) see the portal as a tool for viewing tests results and make payments. Take these age and gender preferences into account when deciding which features to focus on, the research firm says. Poll patients often on what features they'd like to see, too.

Since a plurality of patients still likes to receive phone calls from healthcare workers, Technology Advice's Graham says physicians need to work hard to "sell" the benefits of patient portals.

"Doctors will have to incorporate more marketing ... into the patient experience," he says.


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