Improving the patient experience is a primary concern for behavioral health providers. A positive patient experience can keep clients coming back, while a frustrating or confusing experience may push them away. With so much on the line, it’s important to get it right.
One of the most powerful tools in your arsenal is a user-friendly, highly functional patient portal. These portals are often your clients’ main point of connection to your practice outside of their appointments, so they have the power to define your client’s experience of working with you.
Learn how to improve the patient experience with a strong patient portal platform.
What is “The Patient Experience” and Why Is It Important?
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) defines the “patient experience” as “the range of interactions that patients have with the healthcare system.” This includes interactions with providers and the actual care itself, but also includes logistical details like:
- interaction with staff members
- timely appointments
- accessing their information and records
- communicating with their provider or practice outside of appointments
When clients have a positive experience with a provider and also find these logistics easy to navigate, they’re much more likely to stay with your practice. If interactions with your practice are tricky or confusing, they may get disillusioned and walk away.
Technology has allowed us to build more and more conveniences into our daily lives, but the flip side is that those conveniences heighten the expectations of shrewd consumers. They’ve grown to expect more convenience and to treat it as a “must,” not as a perk. Is your practice ready to meet that challenge?
How Does Your Patient Portal Affect the Patient Experience?
Online patient portals have the potential to completely change a mediocre or bad patient experience for the better. They bring several distinct advantages over traditional models of patient/practice interaction.
Many patient portals today come equipped with a range of functionalities that allow patients to get information quickly and easily. For example, in a robust patient portal, patients can:
- Check billing statements
- Request appointments
- Fill out paperwork
- Update their personal or payment info
- Access test results
- Access copies of their medical records
Before patient portals, all of these things required a phone call or in-person visit to the practitioner’s office—or worse, a long wait time for snail mail.
Clients using a patient portal can now tick off their to-do list right away without tying up the phone lines or licking stamps.
Improving the Patient Experience with Communication
Communication with the practice and with the provider(s) is a huge part of the patient experience. Some of that communication happens face-to-face during appointments. However, the tech revolution has left patients craving fast, easy communication outside of appointment times.
Between appointments, patients may have questions about their homework or treatment plan. They may begin experiencing new or worrisome symptoms and need reassurance. Or, they may have questions about upcoming appointments.
It’s hard for providers to field all of those things through phone calls. And because of HIPAA privacy regulations, email isn’t an easy fix, either.
HIPAA-compliant patient portals provide a platform for secure messaging between patient and provider outside of appointment times. The same applies to interactions with staff. Rather than calling in with schedule or billing questions and being transferred around the office to the right person, clients can just hit “send” on a message to practice staff and wait for a reply from the correct person.
First impressions are important. How a patient experiences their first appointment with you makes an impact. A cumbersome process of account setup and data collection may annoy them.
In the past, patients had no choice but to endure long phone conversations with staff to deliver their personal information, or arrive early to the first appointment and fill it out on paper. With patient portals, much of this information-gathering can be conducted online before the first appointment, at the patient’s leisure.
Easier Outcome Measures
Of course, the most important facet of the patient experience is whether your treatment helps to alleviate their symptoms and help them heal from mental health challenges. Here again, a well-designed patient portal can help, by supporting the use of outcome measures.
Research is clear that outcome measures improve results for behavioral health patients. But outcome measures can feel cumbersome to patients if they have to fill them out by hand at your physical practice location. It eats up appointment time, or forces them to arrive early.
Even worse, the logistics of managing outcome measures make some practices avoid them altogether, so patients are missing out on the full range of treatment benefits they might enjoy—even if they don’t know it.
A patient portal that supports the distribution and collection of outcome measures online makes it more practical for practitioners to deliver this kind of care. It also allows patients to fill out the forms easily at their own convenience.
Is Your Patient Portal User-Friendly? 3 Ways to Test
Maybe you’re already using a patient portal, but you don’t know how or if it’s affecting your patient experience. If you are thinking about improving the patient experience, try running one or all of the following tests to get a read on how your clients interact with your portal.
- Create a demo patient account to confirm that the portal’s features work the way you want them to. Are the features easy to use from the demo account? Is everything working correctly? Pay special attention to important factors like the ease of communication with the practice. This should help you catch any problem areas so you can address them right away.
- Track adoption and use. Report on how many patients have or have not set up their portal account. If, over time, adoption is sluggish, it may be that the portal isn’t as patient-friendly as you thought.
- Don’t guess how your patients feel about the portal. Ask them! Survey patients about their portal experience and allow them to respond anonymously.
Investing time and effort in the patient portal experience is well worth it when you consider the potential it has to raise client satisfaction with your practice. Client satisfaction (and thus, your retention rate) wields powerful influence over your future. Word-of-mouth from satisfied clients and increased referrals from referral sources are some of the best “marketing” tactics you can aim for.
So make the patient experience as smooth as possible with your practice. You might be surprised at just how much difference a good patient portal can make.
Want to provide a first class patient experience? MYIO, Valant’s All-in-One patient portal mobile app, allows you to run your entire patient care cycle from one place. MYIO makes intake, scheduling, telehealth, outcome measures, prescriptions, and billing easy for you and and your patients. Book a free live demo and see it for yourself.