Four Strategies to Get Patients to Use Your Portal

September 16, 2014

Your medical practice's patient portal is not a "field of dreams." Just because you build it, doesn’t guarantee that people will come.

In today’s buy-one-get-one-free world, consumers are driven to action by incentives, and retailers are constantly trying to reinvent their sales strategy to entice shoppers to buy.  So can the strategies that retailers use to build hype be repurposed to create engagement in healthcare?

According to Michael G. Dermer, chief incentive officer at Welltok, many patients are willing to complete a desired healthcare task if offered some type of incentive.  For example, if rewarded, 96 percent of consumers would be healthier, 75 percent of consumers would have their blood pressure checked, 73 percent of consumers would lose weight, and 68 percent would have blood sugar or cholesterol checks.

For practices that are struggling to get patients to engage with their patient portal, the above statistics might hold some valuable lessons. Here are four incentive strategies that might help practices get patients to sign up and take advantage of patient portal services:

1.  Offer a weekly giveaway
Reward patients for signing up for the patient portal during a specific timeframe.  For example, everyone who signs up for the portal in the month of October will be automatically entered into a drawing to win a prize. 

2.  Provide a reward for patient feedback
Ask your patients to provide feedback through the patient portal for a chance to win.  This action serves dual purposes; patients must be signed up for the portal to participate, and they must send a secure message to win. Use this opportunity to gather information from patients on quality of service, satisfaction with wait times, or areas that need improvement.  Be sure to give patients three to four weeks to complete the task and send out reminders several times a week via e-mail and social media. 

3.  Donate to a charity
Commit to donate a certain amount of money for each new patient portal sign up or secure message received during a specific time period.  To drive engagement with your practice, use the Facebook polling feature to let patients decide which charity they would like the office to donate to. 

4.  Use coercive incentives
Increased engagement with patients on the portal can save a substantial amount of money by cutting back on paper.  Consider charging patients a small fee if they choose to receive billing statements or lab results through the mail rather than through the portal.   

When executing an incentive plan, communicating to your patients across platforms is key to your success. Patients should be reminded daily through Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail.  Flyers in rooms and waiting areas are also important.  While you may feel like you are bombarding patients with the same information, chances are that they are so busy they only see it once or twice.  Also, many people need to see messaging several times before they actually take action. 

Remember, your portal is not a "field of dreams."  Just because you build it, doesn’t guarantee that people will come.  In many cases, explaining the benefits of joining the portal is not enough to get people to take action.  For practices who are trying to meet meaningful use goals pertaining to the patient portal, an incentive plan is a great way to build excitement around your portal and get you one step closer to receiving government funding.