Why You Should Stage Patient Portal Implementations

Posted on August 13, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

In response to a discussion I started on LinkedIn about the 4 Things Your Patient Portal Should Include, Travis Moore, MBA, RN, VP at MEDSEEK, added some really great insight into how to have a successful patient portal implementation:

I agree with your assessment on trying to do too much. While many portals on the market, including MEDSEEK’s Empower Patient Portal offer a variety of features, what we at MEDSEEK have found is that it is best to roll out with a subset of features vs. the “big bang” approach for two major reasons. One, you don’t want to overwhelm patients with too many features, as they don’t end up using the “essential” ones appropriately to better activate them in their care. It’s like buying the SLR camera that does 100 things. Reality is, you use 3 of the features for a period of time to get the job done, but then over time, you get comfortable and want to take on more because you take a class, a friend teaches you, etc., and your photos become even better. Same for patient portals, you have to have the features available for future use to further enhance the experience, but roll them out methodically.

And two, many organizations just can’t handle the “do everything at once” deployment, operationally speaking. It’s not a technology “thing”, it’s an operational and cultural issue. I can say from first hand experience as Nurse on both the usage, and deployment end, you have to deploy these patient engagement tools in chunks because if your front line personnel, nurses, aren’t able to clearly articulate to the patient what value it will bring to them when they access it, patients are less likely to use the variety of features in a patient portal. And to Mike’s point about a comprehensive view, that’s exactly why an Enterprise solution is required to bring all of that data together into one view for the patient….and with ACOs, the importance of the enterprise access is even more critical. Patient’s don’t know or care what EMRs, scheduling, or billing systems an HCO has, they just want the “Expedia or Banking-like” experience to see and act upon the information regardless of the source system. It is also critical moving forward that interactive plans of care are accessible and actionable for the patients, and / or their family members, to better engage and activate patients in their care where they spend most of their time, outside the four walls of the organization.

I like the idea of a staged portal implementation. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s not possible since some patient portals are an all or nothing exercise. Plus, meaningful use has accelerated so many implementations. It’s too bad, because there’s real value in staged deployments. The beauty of staged deployments is that once you roll out a few features, then people are interested in what else you can roll out. I’ve seen this same principle work in staged EHR implementations as well. Of course, that provides the added challenge of being ready to roll out the rest of the features as well. Otherwise, you end up with unhappy end users.