Patient Portals: Medical Technology Best Practices

As a medical technology attorney, Susan Larsen assists healthcare organizations in many ways. One way is by helping clients understand how advances in technology, such as patient portals, can be used to better improve communication and patient care. Choosing the right patient portal is an important decision. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages. In this article, we’re exploring some of the best practices of implementing a patient portal and how a medical technology attorney can play an important role through the process.

Related: 5 Principles Used in Acquiring Medical Technology

Determine Whether to Use a Stand-alone or Integrated Patient Portal

Choosing the right patient portal is key to a successful experience. A stand-alone patient portal is generally just an application that you’re able to integrate into your website. They’re often less expensive than an integrated one, but they also may not have all of the features that you want or need. An integrated patient portal has more features. In addition to acting as a patient portal, it also holds electronic medical records and may also integrate with your billing application. These are generally more expensive since they are more inclusive in nature.

Patient Portal Functionality

The most important patient portal best practice involves its functionality. What good is medical technology if it doesn’t work well for patients or for your organization? Consider which features are most important for you and for your patients and for your organizations. Some of the main features include:

  • The ability for patients to securely review test results;
  • The ability for patients to engage in secure messaging with their doctor or nurse;
  • The ability for patients to choose their own in-person appointment times;
  • How easy it is for patients to register;
  • The ability for medical staff to securely send prescriptions to a pharmacy;
  • The ability for patients to schedule e-visits;
  • Whether the portal sends out in-person or e-visit appointment reminders;
  • The ability for patients to access their electronic medical records.

It’s important to consider what you need now as well as what you need in the future. Licenses for patient portals may be long-term. As such, it may be wise to choose a provider that includes every feature you’d like to use even if you don’t plan on using it right away. Some may allow you to start with basic services and purchase additional options in the future. A medical technology attorney has the necessary skills to review the contract and inform your health facility of what it entails. This is important so that you understand your obligations under the contract.

Additionally, it is important to choose a patient portal that makes it easy for both patients and your organization to understand the information presented. This includes messages, medical records, prescriptions, and test results. For patients, it is also important to ensure that the language is easy to read.

Patient Portal Branding

Patient portals are generally licensed from medical technology companies that make them. As such, it’s important for your organization to consider whether the portal can be branded. Branding, in simple terms, means that you can upload your logo, facility name, and other identifying information so that it appears that the portal is custom to your organization.

Branding also puts patients at ease. They’re expecting to interact with your office in some manner. Visiting a generic patient portal that hasn’t been branded with your organization’s information can make patients leery of using the platform. Whereas, ensuring that your logo and facility information is prominently displayed instills a sense of trust.

Resource Library Use

Another best practice for patient portals is to provide a resource library. A resource library may provide downloadable PDFs, short videos, or slideshows that give the patient information about staying healthy or dealing with common conditions from home, such as a cold. Providing a resource library helps your patients play a more active role in their healthcare.

The medical technology company providing the portal may provide a basic resource library. You may also want to find out if it is possible for you to customize that resource by adding your own content. Sometimes, an existing resource library is branded by the company. A medical technology attorney can review the potential licensing agreement to determine whether you have the ability to have their branding removed and replaced with your own.

Payment Processing Feature

Another best practice of using a patient portal is to choose one that provides payment processing. Of course, if you’re providing e-visits, you’ll need this feature so that patients pay before they can see a provider. However, a payment processing feature is also helpful for facilities that provide in-patient visits or payment plans. It makes it easier for patients to pay.

The contract between your facility and the patient portal company should be carefully reviewed. It may be that the company or a third-party payment processor will take a portion of the amount paid through the program.

Understand the Training and Support Provided

Before you sign a licensing agreement for a patient portal, the agreement should be reviewed so that you understand the level of training and support your office will be provided. Is it one time training? Is there a fee for on-going training or support? Is support and training included for the life of your license for the fee paid?

Your office should also choose a “super user.” A “super user” is someone whose job it is to learn all of the features of the portal. They can help solve in-office issues as well as answer questions and provide training for the rest of your office.

Always Have Agreements Reviewed by a Medical Technology Attorney

Before signing any agreement, you should have it reviewed by a medical technology attorney. With more than 30 years of contract review, drafting, and negotiation experience, Larsen Law Office, LLC provides licensing agreement reviews for healthcare facilities. To learn more about how Larsen Law can help you, call us now to schedule your consultation: 303-520-6030.