Only 30 percent of patients use hospital portals, and only 10-to-15 percent use physician portals, according to a recently released study by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA). This poor adoption rate is bad news for healthcare systems that need to meet the requirements of the 2014 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program. Here’s a solution: help patients find your portal.

Sounds simple, right? But often the best solutions are hiding in plain sight. If patients cannot find your portal or are unaware of it, they are not going to use it. And yet, as a healthcare consultant, I cannot tell you how many instances I encounter of patient portals hiding in obscure corners of a healthcare system’s digital assets. Granted, patient portals exist behind firewalls. But you can help patients find them by following some fundamental steps:

  • Put your website and physician pages to work. On the home pages of your website and physician pages, offer a prominent “click here to use your patient portal” option. Doing so will capture more eyeballs from your site visitors. And make sure you give patients easy access. It should take only one click for patients to get to your portal.
  • Advertise. Use tools such as Google AdWords and social media advertising to raise awareness for your portal. Tout the portal’s features such as ease of use. Give your portal personality and a brand (e.g., “your 24/7 access center”). Advertising will build more awareness for your portal, and although the tactic is less targeted than, say, promoting your portal on your own website, you’ll be able to promote your portal as a competitive advantage to a broader pool of users.
  • Use email. Especially for established patients who opt into your email communications, you should be touting the benefits of your portal and offering prominent links. Email has the obvious benefit of being very targeted and allowing you more real estate to discuss the value of your portal than an ad or a website tab.
  • Go mobile. Patients who have opted into your mobile-based wellness programs should be reminded to sign up and use their portals with brief notices befitting the nature of mobile (“Sign up for your portal here and manage your health! [link to portal].”

To offer these suggestions, I’ve drawn upon my work with SIM Partners, which helps healthcare systems run more cost-effective businesses by managing provider and location data to improve patient acquisition and retention. I’m going to be with my SIM Partners colleagues at the MGMA 2017 Annual Conference October 8-11. Visit us in Booth #1249, and let’s talk!