There is no magic bullet when it comes to engaging patients to use a patient portal – rather, a magic buckshot.
No one understands this better than Clinics of North Texas (Wichita Falls, Texas, U.S.A.), which has invited 55% of its patients in 2015 to join the Allscripts FollowMyHealth® patient engagement platform.
Clinics of North Texas Chief Information Officer Melissa Huff and Clinical Trainer Trudi Pittman shared their experience at Population Health University, our annual user group meeting for clients with Allscripts population health solutions. The organization is a multi-specialty clinic with 45 providers and about 200,000 patient visits each year.
“To encourage adoption of the FollowMyHealth portal has taken a lot of creativity and a team,” Pittman said. “You have to involve everybody from the beginning to the end of the process.”
What the enrollment process looks like
When a patient arrives at Clinics of North Texas, their first stop is the front desk. There, an account specialist asks the patient to complete an opt-in/opt-out form to receive an invitation email for the patient portal. The IT department uses these forms to send the invitation emails.
During the patient’s appointment, the nurse will explain portal benefits to the patient, and if time allows, the nurse will help sign the patient up for a portal account while the patient is still in the exam room. The physician will close the appointment by encouraging the patient to use the secure messaging feature within the portal, which operates much like any email system. The physician also explains that communicating through the portal will save patients time because they won’t be placed on hold or be forced to play phone tag like they would if they called the office instead.
“We’re not focusing on every patient. Pick the patients during the day that make the most sense,” Pittman noted. “Is that the last patient before lunch? Is there a certain type of patient you want to focus on? That’s different in different areas of our clinic…but we focus on just a couple that will walk out the door already signed up and ready to use, at the minimum, the messaging feature.”
Overcoming common misconceptions
Huff notes that her team has had to overcome some misconceptions to reach its current adoption rate of 20%. For example:
Staff stress about reaching 100% of patients. Huff and Pittman both emphasized the importance of keeping goals manageable. It’s not possible to sign up every single patient, so focusing on certain types of patients or certain appointments can help teams succeed.
Negative patient association with previous portal. Clinics of North Texas had a different portal that did not work as well as planned. One of the hurdles with enrolling patients in FollowMyHealth was educating them that it is a new portal with improved functionality.
Physician apprehension about messages. Several physicians expressed concern about receiving patient messages all hours of the day and night. Huff explains that FollowMyHealth enables the team to send messages to the most appropriate person, which isn’t always the physician. For example, appointment requests go to the front desk staff and medication renewal requests go to the nursing staff. Physicians are only involved as needed.
Patient concern about privacy. Especially when using social media account logins to sign up for the portal, patients are sometimes concerned that information could be shared publicly. Clinics of North Texas staff reassures patients that this is not the case.
Pittman and Huff agree that being able to customize FollowMyHealth has made it a powerful tool for engaging patients at Clinics of North Texas. “I don’t think we could function and provide the same level of patient care without FollowMyHealth,” Huff said.
If you are struggling with patient portal adoption, Allscripts can help. Learn more about our Patient Engagement Consulting Services (PECS) in this video.