Patient Portals and Meaningful Use

Anne Moss Rogers
Marketing Health Services
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Key Takeaways
  • Electronic records will help you in the long term. 
  • Once you get patients signed up and using online venues, it can greatly improve your efficiency by reducing call volume and decreasing time spent getting medical records or sendin​g test results.
  • By far the most effective means of getting your senior patients and caregivers registered is to help them while they are waiting for their appointment.
The last couple of years have been particularly harsh for health care, and more challenges are on the horizon. In 2015, practices need to get 5% of their patients enrolled in patient portals to be in compliance with the Health InformationTechnology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, which requires health care organizations to adopt electronic health records by 2016.

Although it’s painful, electronic records will help you in the long term. The obvious benefit is the financial incentive for meeting the “meaningful use” guideline, in which health care organizations must demonstrate that they’re using electronic health records technology in a measurable, meaningful way, such as prescribing medicine electronically or promoting the exchange of health information in a digital setting. But once you get patients signed up and using online venues, it can greatly improve your efficiency by reducing call volume and decreasing time spent getting medical records or sending test results.

Here are two ways to boost registration in patient portals, keeping in mind that bandwidth in health care is a constant issue.

1. Rely on e-mail. E-mail is still your best bet, and it’s a very effective way to get patients to sign up. If your hospital or practice management software has an e-mail component, getting the word out will be much easier. Otherwise, you’ll need to export the e-mail addresses into a third-party system, such as Constant Contact or MailChimp. While you are at it, be sure to choose a mobile-friendly or mobile-responsive template since mobile devices drive up to 70% of e-mail opens, depending on the demographic.

How you phrase your e-mail is very important. The way I’ve seen health care facilities frame the request has, thus far, not been inspiring. If you want more registrants, you have to appeal to the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) factor. 

Keep it short, keep it simple, add a visual element, and use a call to action in the form of a brightly colored button. And follow up! If you send e-mail appointment reminders, include a link to new patient forms, or state that you will have an assistant in the waiting room to sign up patients for the portal.

2. Make the waiting room work for you (and them). Patients in the waiting room are a captive audience. It’s always nice to have reminders, such as posters or tent cards, in your waiting room to let people know about signing up for your patient portal. By far the most effective means of getting your senior patients and caregivers registered is to help them while they are waiting for their appointment.

Many health care clients mention that waiting room engagement is a great idea, but they do not have the staff to implement it. This is what college interns are for: They need hours and credit, and you need the help. The intern can sign patients up on a tablet and explain the many benefits of the patient portal.

What ideas have you used to get patients registered? Share your successes (or lessons learned) in a comment below.


This article was originally published in the February 2015 issue of the Marketing Health Services​ e-newsletter.​


Author Bio:

Anne Moss Rogers
Anne Moss Rogers, a former copywriter with 14 years of health care marketing experience, is cofounder and creative director of Impression Marketing. You can find Anne Moss @ImpressionM on twitter and Impression-Marketing.com.
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