How to Create the Best Patient Portal: Features and Requirements

November 5, 2021
How to Create the Best Patient Portal: Features and Requirements

A patient portal is an online tool that helps users stay tuned for health care provider visits, test results, billing, prescriptions, etc. It usually allows making non-urgent appointments, refilling prescriptions, or messaging your doctor without leaving the comfort of your home. With an online portal, patients will never forget about the appointments and get reminders and notifications about the important stuff. Perfect, isn’t it? Read our article to learn how to create the best patient portal.

How СOnline Portal Goals: How it Meets the Main Patient Needs

According to the research, patients who are more engaged with their healthcare providers are more likely to go for check-ups, get their immunizations, and get diagnostic tests done on time. It means that less engaged patients are 3x more likely to have unmet medical needs. They are also 2x as likely to delay getting care than patients who like to actively participate in their treatment.

So what does it have to do with creating an online portal? To find out, let’s answer the question, “What is a patient portal?’

A patient portal is a website provided by GPs where patients can set up their own accounts to track all the health information and interact with the general practice. Think of a portal as the all-in-one place that helps patients engage with their doctors and always feel heard.

“Patients expect to be treated like people, not identified by their illness or injury, and to remember that patients are scared and need compassion. Patients want a personal interaction and not a medical interaction.”

Christy Dempsey, Chief Nursing Officer at Press Ganey

Patients need a human connection and easy access to all the information about their state of health. The portal can build and nurture physician-patient relationships and improve relationships between patients and providers. The portal also enables doctors to get rid of medical jargon and familiarity and communicate with patients simply. Other benefits of an online portal are the following:

  • Improved patient activation
  • More efficient and effective communication
  • Better and more timely self-care among patients
  • Ability to focus better on high-priority patients
  • Improved patient satisfaction

In our opinion, the main goal of the customer portal is to stay connected with the patient and increase patient engagement. As a result, it will also helo to increase patient loyalty, as doctors can quickly respond to messages electronically and address the needs of the customers without long waits.

As a result, patient portals will make your business more competitive and trendy, as you will provide a higher level of care and attract patients who appreciate a personalized approach. Let’s take a look at the main patient portal requirements to know what features to focus on first.

Patient Portal Requirements: What Each Patient Portal Should Include

According to the research, here are the main patient portal requirements patients are looking for:

  • Scheduling appointments online
  • Viewing health information (e.g., lab results or clinical notes)
  • Viewing bills/making payments
  • Checking prescription refills/requests
  • Filling out pre-visit forms (e.g., intake form)
  • Sending messages to my care (healthcare provider) team
  • Updating medical history
  • Telemedicine features

Some patient portals also give an opportunity to:

  • Securely message your doctor
  • Request prescription refills
  • Schedule non-urgent appointments
  • Check benefits and coverage
  • Update contact information
  • Make payments
  • Download and complete forms
  • View educational materials

In order to create a portal that meets your patient requirements. Some patient portals also give an opportunity to:

  • Understand how the patient portal can help both providers and patients and what do you expect from it

First of all, try to speak to your customers and find out their biggest challenges and needs. The most important thing here is not to shoot in the dark and listen to your customers at once. After that, you need to talk with your care team and ask them what they expect from the customer portal and how it can simplify their work process and automate their routine tasks.

  • Think about how your portal strategies will enroll patients

Create a list of things you will do to enroll the patients into your patient portal. Start with including the information about the patient portal on your organization's website and provide your patients with the enrollment link before their first visit. Also, make it compulsory for the care team to mention the customer portal when patients call to schedule appointments.

Make sure to focus on the website’s confidentiality and remove the fear of customers leaving their personal information there.

  • Think about how you will handle the patient messages

Ensure that tasks are carried out promptly and efficiently. Create portal message routing rules to reduce office phone calls, letters, and administrative work a physician performs. Here is an example of the workflow for handling patient portal messages.

Image by Proxet. Suggested Workflow for Handling Patient Portal Messages
Suggested Workflow for Handling Patient Portal Messages

How to Set Up Patient Portal: Options You Have

So how to make a portal? There are three main ways to implement a patient portal: acquire it from your EHR provider, buy a separate patient portal solution, or build a custom patient portal. Let’s review the specifics of each one.

Acquire a Portal from Your EHR Provider

You can integrate the patient portal with your EHR for an extra fee with the help of such certified EHRs as eClinicalWorks, Allscripts, Athena Health, and Cerner. In such a way, an integrated patient portal will run smoothly within your system, and your staff will easily understand it. In addition, integrating it takes just several clicks.

However, the portals integrated by your EHR provider usually have limited features, and it may be hard to migrate from one system to another when any problems occur.

Acquire a Separate Patient Portal Solution

There are dedicated patient portals that you can acquire separately from your EHR system. Also, you can use different solutions and mix them in order to get more diverse features and opportunities.

Note that this is a separate portal solution, so be prepared to spare a lot of time integrating it with your EHR system and educating your medical staff. 

Build a Custom Patient Portal

The custom patient portal is a solution that is completely tailored to your needs. The software development company will create a custom portal based on your clinic’s workflow, patients, and the IT ecosystem. However, custom applications require a higher budget and more development time.

“Compare the time and financial investment required to build a custom tool to the direct and indirect costs of purchasing a solution, which could include installation, licensing and maintenance fees, and transaction fees, among others. You’ll also have to think about the time and resources it will take to train staff and patients to use the new technology.”

George Serebrennikov, C0O at Proxet, a company providing software development services

Must-have Patient Portal Features

A complex patient portal should include the following features:

  • Clinical summaries
  • Secure (HIPAA-compliant) messaging (yes, don’t forget about patient portals and HIPAA)
  • Online bill pay
  • New patient registration
  • Ability to update demographic information
  • Prescription renewals and contact lens ordering
  • Appointment requests
  • Appointment reminders
  • Medication lists
  • Lab and test results
  • Medical history
  • Patient educational materials
“Some features tend to draw patients to a portal more than others. For example, the ability to pay their bill online might be more appealing or helpful to some patients than the features that we are trying to get them to use in order to meet the MU requirements. And once patients become comfortable with one feature, they’ll be more likely to start using others.”

Joy Woodke, COE, OCS, practice administrator at Oregon Eye Consultants

To make the patient portal user-friendly, pay attention to the following patient portal features:

  • Make it easy to sign up and log in. Make sure to set up automated password recovery and provide assistance 24/7. A help desk should be readily available by telephone and/or chat to help patients reach you through different channels.
  • Give patients secure email access to their physicians. Patients want responses to medical questions from a doctor or at least a nurse practitioner. Emails should provide attachments, such as health-related photos, e.g., a rash or test results from other caregivers. The email system should include automated alerts so that patients don’t have to continue checking for new messages.
  • Send notifications when significant portal content changes and educate your patients about any of them.
  • Connect the portal to your EHR to ensure the availability of clinical and financial data communication.
  • Make the portal mobile-friendly. As many people respond to the messages on the go, your portal should be optimized for both mobile and non-mobile platforms.

Now you know how to build a portal. Software development services like Proxet, with over ten years of experience in the healthcare industry and countless projects relating, can help your company build one.

Our teams of developers are up to the task, whether it’s building a project from scratch or overseeing its implementation. Proxet understands that telemedicine app features are specific to each project and the specific needs of that project.

For that reason, our project managers work closely with clients, keeping an open line of communication to ensure the client is satisfied with the project and can make any necessary changes as it progresses. If you’re ready to take the first step in making your idea for a new telehealth service a reality, please contact us today.

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