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How to meaningfully use your patient portal to meet Meaningful Use objectives

The requirements for Program Year (PY) 2017 focus on the advanced meaningful use (MU) of EHRs. Therefore, the attestation must be in either Stage 2 or full version of Stage 3. Stage 3 is required in PY2018 and beyond so start preparations now. This email speaks to the two objectives for which measures require a provider to track patient-specific action on a patient portal during the EHR MU reporting period.

Stage 2 PY2017
• > 5% of unique patients seen by the EP viewed online their health information CMS Detail Specification
• > 5% of unique patients seen by the EP were sent a secure message using the electronic messaging function of CEHRT CMS Detail Specification

Stage 3 PY2017 Optional; PY2018 Required of All Providers
• > 80% of unique patients seen by the EP viewed online their health information CMS Detail Specification
• > 5% of unique patients seen by the EP were sent a secure message using the electronic messaging function of CEHRT CMS Detail Specification

Once patients use your patient portal, they will most likely continue to value the information. But how to get them to begin? Consider the following and more that are described in greater detail at eVisit™.

Provide Information To Patients:

Provide handouts and signup sheets to patients to sign them up for the patient portal during their visit. If applicable, inform patients that they can access the portal via their mobile device during their visit. This would be a great opportunity to have the patient access the portal and become comfortable with its operation. Also, staff can help patients with any technical issues as well as getting feedback.

Bulk Enrollment:

Pull the email addresses for any patients who haven't enrolled in your patient portal and then upload them into the system. Then send a series of emails to the patients encouraging them to pick a username and password and access the portal. Welcome patients to the portal and show them how to access it.

Get The Whole Office Involved:

Your staff members have a real opportunity to promote the patient portal throughout the patient's visit. Every staff member, particularly the appointment staff, should have a script to talk up the patient portal to patients. You could even try having staff wear buttons that say, "Ask me about [name of your patient portal system]."

Promote The Patient Portal At Every Patient Interaction:

Look at every patient interaction as an opportunity to promote the patient portal. This includes before leaving the exam room, providers and others should remind patients that they'll be able to access any lab results and a clinical summary (or other materials, relevant to your practice) through the portal.

Use Every Patient Handout or Marketing Collateral To Promote The Patient Portal:

Add a line to bills and any paperwork or handout you give to patients that reminds patients of the things they can do using the portal. Include a note on patient education flyers that they can access more helpful information in their portal. Make sure your patient portal is also clearly advertised on your marketing collateral, and your practice website, if you have one.

Market The Benefits, Not The Features:

Don't use business terms when you tell the patient about the portal. Don't say the portal has "patient messaging" and an "appointment calendar." Instead, say, "you can use it to talk directly with your doctor or send an urgent message when our office is closed." Or, "you can even make an appointment online instead of trying to get through on our phone." Make it clear to your patients that using the portal is a win for both of you. Speak to them about what your practice does to make communication using the portal secure.

Give Patients an Added Incentive:

If none of these tactics is working for you, try an old-fashioned financial incentive. Offer patients 5% off the first medical bill they pay using the patient portal. Or, enter their name into a monthly prize drawing if they schedule an appointment online.

Chances are, once your patients get through the initial login and orientation, the hardest part is over. Any fears about using a new technology will fade. And, they'll experience first-hand benefits that are important to them.

Continue to seek feedback from patients to confirm that their experience is positive and engaging. The patient portal is likely to need some tweaking and updating after your first launch. If you add a new feature (like, say appointment scheduling) or update the layout to make it more user-friendly, make sure you advertise these changes to your patients. A patient who initially logged on and was frustrated by bugs or a difficult layout might be encouraged by news of an updated design.

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