Mr. Sharp suggests that successful adoption by patients requires a few simple steps:
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Explore This IssueFebruary 2016
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- An easy registration process;
- Taking the time to educate your patients about the value of easy access to their own data;
- A tutorial or other method to show them how to use the portal. As with other instructions, giving them something to have with them at home could be useful;
- Having a help desk available to answer questions or reset the almost inevitable lost password; and
- Offering valuable patient education materials about their specific condition in a way that makes it easy to find.
Allowing patients to make their own appointments is another inducement that many will find useful. After all, when you book a hotel room online, you know without any wait that your reservation has been accepted.
Make sure that all handouts and other information distributed to patients have the Web address printed on them. Signs in the exam rooms and the waiting areas should be available with instructions on how to sign on. Some have suggested having a computer in the waiting room with a sample portal so patients can use it and become comfortable with it before they leave the office.
Looking at the demographics of your practice is another important aspect when deciding how to run your portal.
“Recent studies have shown no major differences in the age groups in the interest and use of portals,” says Mr. Sharp. “[Although] the younger groups may be more tech savvy, other age groups are increasingly using the Internet, mobile devices and apps. Remember that many in the older generation are motivated technically by the desire to see photos and videos of the grandchildren.”
He notes two exceptions that those designing and working with a portal should keep in mind: the very old (85+) and those who have never used computers. The second group is healthy, but remains Internet illiterate. You will need to find alternate ways to communicate with both of these.
“One way to involve the elderly is to establish contact with their children or grandchildren who are more computer oriented,” says Mr. Yaskin. “You can establish what we call ‘care circles,’ where others who are cleared by the patient can access the portal on their behalf.”
This isn’t really all that different from having another person in the exam room with the patient. This could also be extended to the healthy group with no computer access. In both cases, more traditional means, such as telephone or U.S. mail, may be needed.