Jordan Landing Family Medicine Sees the Value in Patient Portals
Maggie McCann, MBA, Communications Coordinator, HealthInsight
Ryan Brown, MPH/MHA, Project Coordinator, HealthInsight
In early 2013, Jordan Landing Family Medicine realized that their patient portal was a strategic opportunity to differentiate their clinic by establishing a new channel for patient communication. They knew a portal would help with a nagging problem with which many clinics struggle – making visit summaries meaningful, and getting those summaries to patients (an important step in attaining meaningful use [MU]). The portal gave them time to complete clinic notes, get lab results, and create an actionable visit summary that would be reliably delivered to patients without using a single piece of paper. What they didn’t expect was for the portal to be met with so much enthusiasm from both the providers and the patients.
With the help of Ryan Brown (Project Coordinator at HealthInsight) they were able to prepare and successfully implement their patient portal in less than two months. This was a carefully thought out process that involved the entire office. The implementation involved:
- Training the staff so that they knew what to do and how to answer patient questions before they went live with the portal
- Changing the phone tree to include a piece about the portal that patients can hear while they are waiting on hold
- Creating marketing materials; including signs and handouts for the front desk
- Setting up alerts in their electronic health record (EHR) that tell providers if a patient is not signed up for the portal
- Adding a piece about the portal to the Phreesia tablet (patients use this to check-in), so that the patient can add their email and get setup
Implementation took about two months and the clinic quickly realized that the portal was not only going to help them with MU, but also with efficiency.
"It replaces a lot of phone time for the clinic," states Trish. "The phones are always really busy, but the portal now takes a huge hit off the phone because patients can view their records, so they aren’t calling and asking as many questions."
The records indicate that more than 5% of patients elected to download, not just view, their records during the first 90-day period.
It has also helped with refill requests. The refill request process used to include many steps, including phone calls, a paper process, and staff time. While patients may continue to call in refill requests, a huge swath elects to push those requests through the portal. With this process, the prescription requests are already in the EHR, the physician sees it, approves it, and sends it to the pharmacy when they are able to step away from seeing patients. The patient can also see it was approved, so there are few follow up calls.
"I used to walk past the phone triage and there were 20 to 25 messages on the phone, now there’s one to two," says Trish.
It has only been six months since the clinic first started their implementation, and they couldn’t be happier with the reception. About 90% of patients provide an email address for portal access. This is due in large part to a purposeful effort to educate patients about the portal.
"Every patient knows about it," states Trish. "There is a pop up screen that comes up in the EHR if someone is not signed up for the portal, so the front desk, medical assistant, or provider can ask them if they want to sign up and educate them as to why they should."
And how do the patients feel about the clinic’s new patient portal?
"A lot of patients say that they really like it – the majority love it," says Trish.
The main issue patients have is usually with their password. They can’t remember it or they lose it, so the front desk just resets it for them. But, other than the password problem, patients, especially parents and caregivers seem to really like it.
Six months past implementation, the clinic has some lessons learned for others attempting to implement a portal:
- It’s not difficult to do, it’s just knowing and getting a hold of your EHR vendor and starting the process
- Set up the intake process – figure out what will work best to collect the necessary patient information
- Pay attention to your marketing - the clinic had to adjust this a couple of times to emphasize the features patients use most
- It requires work on the front end to get ready for implementation, but saves a measurable amount of time on the back end, post-implementation