Meaningful Use: Getting Patient Buy-in to Meet Portal Requirements

May 5, 2014

Getting your patients to use your patient portal may not be as hard as you think. Here's why.

One of the core objectives of the Stage 2 rules of meaningful use requires that more than 5 percent of your patients interact with your patient portal by viewing, downloading, or sharing their information with a third party. Many physicians nationwide are stressing over this one requirement, as making the portal available is one thing, getting patients to actually use it is another. While it won't be easy to meet this requirement, it may not be as hard as it seems. It just takes a little strategy.

If you want your patients to engage with the portal, you must first engage with your patients. Physicians need to both explain the system and endorse it. Steven Waldren, senior healthcare strategist with the American Academy of Family Physicians, pointed out a U.K. study that looked into how to get patients to engage with The Spine, the patient portal of the National Health Service. The study, Waldren told Physicians Practice, found that patients were far more likely to use the portal if their healthcare provider sat down with them and personally vouched for it, saying something along the lines of, "I believe it's safe and a good thing and you should use it."

The same can be said for U.S. physicians who can take time during office visits to remind patients about the portal and extol the virtues of everything from making an appointment to checking lab results online versus calling the practice.

Patients will also use the system more if physicians demonstrate it is easy to use.

"Have someone available to actually show them how to use the patient portals," Tammie Olson of Management Resource Group, a firm offering financial management and support services for the healthcare community, told Physicians Practice. "If the portals are difficult to use or confusing, patients will not use them."

Waldren suggests signing patients up at check-out and showing them how to use the portal to get information about the visit they just completed. Walking patients through the process of setting up a user name and password will not only get them in the system, it will give you a chance to demonstrate how easy it is to use. You might also consider printing up a simple, one-page handout with instructions about how to sign on and use the basic features of your portal.

Of course, it will help to point out to patients what's in it for them. Be sure your patients know that the system offers them concrete advantages, such as an easy way to make appointments and renew prescriptions. And if you're still desperate for participation, take a tip from your pharmaceutical rep and offer an incentive. "For instance," said Waldren, "you might try enrolling everyone who signs up in a drawing for an iPad."