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Thursday September 13, 2018  |  Jessica Barrett, Technology Advice

5 Tricks to Make Your Patient Portal More Engaging

Woman and a man looking at a tablet

In theory, a patient portal should improve medical care for everyone. Patients can access online health records, send secure messages, and view their care plan digitally. Providers can share test and lab results, request digital paperwork, and manage appointments. Problem is, sometimes it’s all too difficult to convince patients to use your portal.

Despite the promise of improved access to health records and direct access to a physician, there’s plenty of room for patient portal engagement to grow. According to a recent ONC data brief, as of 2017, about 52 percent of patients have been offered online access to their medical record, and over half of them viewed their record within the past year. That number represents only about 28 percent of patients nationwide.

While those numbers are better than they were a few years ago, it’s clear that providers need to do a little extra work to get patients excited about using a patient portal.

How to Make a Patient Portal More Engaging

If you’re trying to boost your portal engagement, start by encouraging every patient to use it. Surveys show that about 63 percent of individuals who were encouraged to use their online medical record accessed it within the past year. Sometimes an extra nudge goes a long way. On top of that, here are a few things you can do to make your portal more engaging:

  1. Make a good impression.

    User experience is always important--but in the case of making your patient portal more engaging, it’s one of the most important things you need to consider. Your portal should be intuitive and easy to use, and updates to the patient’s medical record should be made quickly. Ultimately, your patient portal should deliver vital information--including test results, care plan instructions, and prescriptions--in a format that is easy to access and understand.

  2. Make your portal part of the communications strategy.

    Healthcare organizations and doctor’s offices that have high patient portal adoption rates use their portals for everything possible. Whether a patient wants to view their latest test results, ask the doctor a question, or schedule a new appointment, refer them to your portal. You can also make your portal feel indispensable by responding quickly to messages, making patients feel like they have a direct line of communication to you through secure messaging. And be sure to close the loop by connecting your portal to a medical CRM where individual patient data can be easily accessed (find recommendations for great medical CRMs here).

  3. Offer continuing education.

    It’s not enough simply to introduce the portal and hope patients use it. When your system updates, changes features, or adds new tools, you need to communicate those changes to patients. Explain the updates in person, send messages through the portal, and consider making handouts or brochures to help every patient continue to understand how to best use their online health record.

  4. Provide learning opportunities.

    In general, patients trust information from their doctors, even if they are still tempted to research their health concerns on the Internet. Offering educational materials about diet, exercise, chronic conditions, and general health can keep your patients coming back to the portal more often. If patients can access information related to their own health problems, they may view the portal as something designed to help them, not just their doctor’s office.

  5. Make it personal.

    Don’t wait for patients to come to you through the portal. Send personal messages to check on them--especially after they start a new medication or receive a new diagnosis. You can also send articles or support group information tailored to their personal health. When patients experience direct access to their physician, they may be more likely to log in regularly.

With a few efforts to make your patient portal more engaging, you can increase engagement and provide a better service to your patients while improving operational efficiency within your organization.


Jessica Barrett is a writer for is a Nashville-based freelance writer specializing in healthcare, wellness, and lifestyle content. In addition to writing for national outlets such as USA Today, she works with a variety of healthcare companies to create patient engagement and education programs.

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