Methods to encourage patients to use a patient portal for their physician's practice ?


What are some of the most common techniques used to encourage patients to use the physician patient portal ?

Proactive Monitoring
Patient Portals
Patient Education
Dr Bart Ripperger
17 months ago

3 answers


My approach may not be common, yet, but I guarantee patients would not only embrace the portal but they would visit frequently and interact.
Provide a simple point incentive system that is easy to understand and easy to accumulate points for healthy choices, lifestyle changes and compliance with medical directives. Set rewards for point levels such as umbrellas, t-shirts, gift cards to local establishments and have automatic entries into drawings for larger prizes at lower tiers of participation. Make awarding the winners a BIG deal around the office and with online communications to patients.
HIPAA concerns can be assuaged by stripping out health information and using patient selected usernames. The portal can be a fun, informative and valuable resource for patients and better for you a wealth of data that can be used to shape patient communication and outcomes tracking.
If you would like to learn more please reach out and I would be happy to help flesh out the concept for your practice. I have seen a variant of this in use at Orthodontic offices where children are encouraged and rewarded for specific activities beneficial to their appliances. The outcomes have been excellent.

Oren Birks, MBA
17 months ago
Rewarding/gamification is a very dangerous area for medical providers, as it is strictly forbidden in some areas to reward people for using DMTs or similar. It is a huge legal minefield for many biopharmas and other similar entities. - David 17 months ago
Additionally, many diseases that would justify use of a portal, i.e. long-term, chronic diseases, go counterintuitively to most app behaviour. Patients do not like to be reminded they are ill, so all kinds of "stickiness" or rewarding/incentivising continued use is a non-starter. - David 17 months ago
You have touched on the why nots... but ignored the why. If regulation prohibits gamification of a portal there must be a law/regulation or rule as to why. Work around the rule. I don't understand the link between illnesses that would justify a portal and the downside of reminders to remain healthy. - Oren 17 months ago
I would be very interested in seeing actual regulation or law around the making of a patient health portal interesting by incentivizing good behavior. Insurance companies do this daily with healthy lifestyle rewards, it benefits the patient as well as the provider as cost for care is reduced as overall health improves. - Oren 17 months ago
Drug manufacturers are subject to extremely tough regulation as to how they are allowed to promote the purchase or taking of their drugs. I'm sure you can dig up this regulation per territory if you need. This was an area we looked at extensively at the Biopharma I worked at, and the legal repercussions are not worth the risk of "working around the rule" when it comes to people's health. - David 17 months ago
I can appreciate the boundaries for a pharmaceutical manufacturer establishing such a portal but the original question was patient portal. To me this is a care provider's selected, private engagement area already meeting HIPAA and privacy laws prior to implementation. I believe we are approaching this from very different perspectives. You do have a sold point of concern from the pharma side. - Oren 17 months ago

The key here is in the question you're asking - you're wanting to motivate one "user" (the patient) for the benefit of another "user" (the physician, and/or their data mining). This is the wrong question to ask.

A more customer-centric view would be "What services can I provide through a portal, that my patients want to use?". This will vary from cohort to cohort, from disease to disease, and will likely be very specific. There is no one answer to this outside of "understand your patients" as that will drive your ability to engage with them.

I would encourage a technique like design thinking, to rapidly prototype ideas and present them to patients, to find out what motivates them, and what services they would find useful. If you crack that nut, the "encouragement" to use the portal is not needed - patients already have a tough time and anything that can make their lives easier is going to be welcome.

This isn't limited to chronic patients, the general doctor-patient relationship is extremely archaic and can benefit from a more modern approach - from booking appointments online, to completing questionnaires ahead of time, or even providing chat services for easy follow up - the possibilities are numerous.

David Whewell
17 months ago
Thank you for responses ! Yes, all excellent points ! Physicians certainly need to be cautious from the legal perspective of any type of " reward" Stark law ( not as applicable in this scenario) and anti-kickback laws ( can t-shirts and gift cards really be considered kickbacks ??) but legal understanding is needed. Correct, we need to devise greater incentive for patients to use the portal! - Dr Bart 17 months ago

I agree with both comments previously made. One additional consideration when thinking about the developement of the patient portal is intended outcome. Many acute environments are looking to leverage a patient portal to not only provide guidance a long their care journey, but also to reduce the number of calls that need 1:1 support through the patient services group. Additionally, provider and payers are beginning to embrace the value of the patient portal to drive health and wellness behavior This could include not only care coordination support for timely scheduling, but also wellness, diet, and speciality pharmacy support to insure protocol adherence.

Paul McRae
16 months ago

Have some input?