Patient portals boost efficiency, engagement, but getting patients and physicians on board a challenge

Many practices have implemented a patient portal, but a big challenge remains: getting patients and doctors to actually use it.

Practices use portals for a variety of reasons. They can allow patients to schedule visits, pay bills, request prescription refills, check test results and communicate with physicians and staff. That convenience put online portals at the top of a list of patient engagement strategies in a recent survey.

Portals can also increase efficiency by shifting some duties from doctors to their staff. They cut down on many monotonous tasks, allowing staff to focus on important work, Tiffani A. Mauro, practice manager at San Diego Imaging, said during a recent FierceHealthcare webinar on technology to improve patient experience.

But it can be tough to get patients to use the technology and for physicians to take advantage of all a portal can offer.

“I’d love to see 100% of the patients use it. I don’t think we will, but I think we’ll get more [to sign up],” Michael L. Munger, M.D., a primary care doctor at St. Luke’s Medical Group in Overland Park, Kansas, told Medical Economics.

Both physicians and patients can be blamed for the slow uptake of portal technology, which is relatively new for practices. But Thomas Payne, M.D., medical director of IT services at the University of Washington School of Medicine, told the publication he expects physicians will increase their use of portals as they get more comfortable with electronic health records and other technologies.