Don’t confuse a patient portal with patient relationship management

The introduction of Meaningful Use led many clinics to adopt a patient portal to provide their patients with electronic access to their health information. Some practices chose the free patient portal included with their EMR and others chose a comprehensive solution, like Navigating Care’s Patient Link, that would actually go far beyond a patient portal and activate and engage patients in their care.

In the past year, we’ve seen a few practices switch out to a new EMR and elect to replace Navigating Care’s Patient Link with the standard EMR-provided patient portal believing it would suffice. In almost every case since then, our customers have come back.

It turns out not all online patient-related applications are equal. As one cancer program CEO recently told us, “I thought a patient portal was a patient portal, but when patients started complaining, I realized that they weren’t.”

As we welcome customers back to the Navigating Care platform following disappointing experiences with other platforms, we are hearing a few commons themes. It’s become clear that there are several imperative elements to delivering patient-centered resources that simultaneously make life easier for the care team.

  1. Flexibility & Automation. Whether it’s automating personalized educational materials or sending secure messages, one size doesn’t fit all. Clinics want to deliver information that suits their process according to a schedule they’ve identified and that is in the best interests of their patients. Having a configurable and automated system not only gets information to the right patient at the right time without manual processes or people, the patient’s communication can also be directed to the right member of the care team, streamlining the process. And, as things change, so can the system.
  2. Usability & Functionality. If you expect patients to use your system, it can’t be confusing or difficult to access and it needs to actually meet their needs. When patients can go to one central place to access their information, review personalized education, use tools to communicate with friends and family, learn from and connect to a community of others, they do and they are more satisfied and engaged. As one patient told us, “This is the ’one place’ where I can get, keep and find information I need.” There’s also an added bonus to giving patients a great tool for managing their health: your care team will have a lot fewer calls to return and questions to answer. Patients want to get engaged, but it has to be on their terms.
  3. Access & Responsiveness. When patients can connect with their care team in real time and get what they need, the delivery of care is much more efficient. Even something as simple as rescheduling an appointment via secure messaging – if the message bounces around until it gets to the right person, the system isn’t working. For something more serious, like reporting a side effect, that direct connection is even more important. Plus, when the patient is able to make a direct digital connection to the care team, phone tag becomes a thing of the past.   
  4. Support For You & Your Patients. In the new era of consumerism and importance of patient experience, customer service is an emerging priority. As a healthcare provider, the last thing you want to do is field all the phone calls and provide support for a technology your facility uses. It’s also scary to entrust your patients to an unproven outside vendor. You need to be confident that a vendor will meet each patient’s needs. That customer service is an extension of the care you provide, after all, so it needs to be exceptional. When you have a tech support partner you can trust, it lessens the burden on the care team and they are able to get back to caring for their patients.

Since our founding in 2008, we have remained constant in our focus on improving the patient experience. It informs all of our decisions in the development of our platform. That focus has enabled us to create patient relationship management tools that work, provide resources that meet patient needs and provide support when it’s needed to both the patient and the care team. To learn more, contact Navigating Cancer today.

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