Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Patient Portal?

Tech Author Megan Pacella

If you’re using a patient portal, chances are your patients are getting some pretty convenient features out of it. Even if your portal doesn’t have all the bells and whistles, having a place where patients can access their health data, confirm appointments, and message office staff and their providers can help cut down on phone calls and inefficiencies in office workflow. However, it takes more than a messaging system to help your practice meet Meaningful Use Stage 3 requirements.
Are you sure you’re getting the most out of your patient portal? If not, we’ll go over what Meaningful Use criteria means and how your portal can help you meet the current Meaningful Use Stage 3 components.

What’s Meaningful Use Stage 3?

Back in 2011, Meaningful Use criteria started to help hospitals and physician practices implement certified electronic health record (EHR) tools and use them to improve patient care. Over the years, this criteria has evolved to help hospitals improve care, engage patients and families, keep patient data secure, and collect robust research data. As of 2016, Meaningful Use Stage 3 became effective with the following criteria:

  • Improving quality, safety and efficiency, leading to better patient outcomes
  • Decision support for national high-priority conditions
  • Patient access to self-management tools
  • Access to comprehensive patient data through patient-centered HIE
  • Improving population health

So how does a healthcare organization prove that they have met Meaningful Use standards? That’s where quality measures come into play. The Centers for Medicaid & Medicare Services developed tools to verify that eligible hospitals and providers have met the Meaningful Use standards. Quality measures provide a way to quantify the ways in which a healthcare organization can provide effective, safe, efficient, patient-centered, equitable, and timely care.

5 Ways to Use a Patient Portal to Achieve Meaningful Use Stage 3

For Meaningful Use stages 1 and 2, the requirements for patient portals were relatively simple. However, for stage 3, it’s not enough to just have a patient portal–you need 50 percent of your patients to be registered, and 5 percent to actually use it. If you need to optimize your patient portal for Meaningful Use Stage 3, here are a few tips that can help:

Educate your patients.

It’s not enough to simply sign a patient up for your portal. You can increase adoption rates by explaining how the portal can benefit them–and take the time to show them how to use it. You might be surprised how many questions even younger, tech-savvy patients will have about your portal. Taking a few extra minutes to talk things over can encourage your patients to use the system and reduce time spent troubleshooting problems with them later on.

Register patients in person.

It’s hard to find extra time during a doctor’s visit. However, using an iPad or tablet to register patients on the portal during a visit could cut down on time spent on the phone later. Allow patients to practice logging in, viewing their health record or lab results, and using the messaging system while they are in the office. Then you can answer questions directly and explain the benefits of using the portal.

Get your team on board.

Sure, you need your patients to use the portal. But is your team really getting the most out of it? Many patient portals have the ability to improve care coordination and patient communication. Make sure your team understands the ins and outs of your portal so they can get the most out of it and help your organization achieve Meaningful Use stage 3.

Initiate communication.

Don’t sit back and wait for your patients to message you. Reach out to them with test results, appointment reminders, and short check-ins to prompt a response. Chances are, they will appreciate your efforts and use the portal to get in touch with any questions or concerns they may have. If you have marketing automation tools to send out emails and newsletters to your patients, use your newsletter to direct patients to the portal for updates and seasonal health information.

Provide targeted health information.

Patients who have chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart failure, may need additional information to manage their health. Your portal provides an easy and secure way to send information related to disease management. You can offer classes or events to teach patients about disease management–and then promote them through the portal.
The bottom line is, creating a more engaging environment for your patients can only foster better relationships and produce better outcomes. Sure, you need to leverage your patient portal to achieve Meaningful Use Stage 3–but it can benefit your practice, too!
Megan Pacella is a writer for She 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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Last Updated on April 21, 2018