How to Tell Patients About Your Online Practice Tools

When your practice adopts a new technology that directly involves patients, such as interactive online forms, a patient portal, or even a simple website with educational content, taking an "if you build it, they will come" attitude won't work.

You need to tell patients about it and how using it will benefit them.

When Premier Family Physicians in Austin adopted a patent portal as part of its electronic health record system, the physicians had a friendly competition to see who could get the most patients to sign up. However, Kevin Spencer, MD, of that practice says others in the practice can talk up the new feature to patients as well.

In the new TMA online publication Dr. Spencer cowrote with TMA's Shannon Vogel, Hi-Tech Patient Engagement, the authors suggest practices create a workflow diagram indicating how a patient moves through the practice and identify ideal opportunities to tell the patient about the new service.

For example, in the case of a new patient portal:

  • As the patient's first point of contact upon arriving, the receptionist could describe key features of the portal as well as the practice's privacy policies. With the patient's signed permission, the receptionist could create the patient's account using a temporary password; direct patients to a kiosk in the reception area where patients can sign up; or give them a card with sign-up instructions to take home.
  • As the medical assistant or nurse reviews information with the patient, he or she could mention that current medications and lab information will be available via the patient portal.
  • The physician could mention that patient educational materials specific to the patient's condition as well as follow-up instructions will be available via the portal.
  • As the patient checks out, checkout staff could mention that the information related to this visit will be available on the patient portal within 24 hours.

In addition to telling patients about the portal, the practice also can send a friendly email or postcard to patients encouraging them to sign up for the portal. The most effective messages are patient-centered, focusing on how the patient can benefit by using it. Make your message about "you," not "us." For example:

NOT: ABC Practice has implemented online patient portals where we can securely post patient lab results. …

BETTER: Now you can view your lab results by logging in to a secure online patient portal on the ABC Practice website. …

Published July 8, 2014

TMA Practice E-Tips main page


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