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Patient Portals: Improved Communication Means Improved Client Satisfaction

Patient-centered care is now prevalent as a 'discussed' model of delivery; the many stakeholders across the healthcare industry talk to its value. It has become clear that the average healthcare consumers are more satisfied with their care when they feel valued as an important member of their own healthcare team; considered and asked to be involved in critical decisions. Communication is key to building the solid, collaborative healthcare relationships that lead to those feelings of empowerment and engagement. Patient portal software gives providers the means to open the lines of communication, sometimes slowly at first and then increasing the frequency and quality of interactions between themselves and their clients. 

Patient portal software can streamline communications; bringing tasks online that are generally handled much less efficiently face to face or via the telephone. Areas of clinical need such as prescription renewal and referral requests, appointment booking and management, and viewing /explanations of test results. Clients can receive alerts from their healthcare providers via patient portals, reminding them of appointments, preventive care needs and/or prescription renewals, or set up alerts on their own to ensure that they remember to take medications or perform self-monitoring tasks. Providers can also deliver patient-specific health education and information to clients via the portal, supporting their efforts to become a well-informed and active participant in their care. 

Perhaps the most important of patient portal software features to engender trust in this new online Dr/patient relationship is how the provider/client communicate online. It must be respectful and effective. This involves secure messaging features, online video interactions, forums where personal health information PHI is secure, personal viewing of own health information and ongoing results and there must be online patient feedback measures that are monitored by the clinic admin team. 

Online viewing of sections of their personal health files, clients not only have access to their own health information but can be set up to be able to contribute – uploading their own photos of self- improvements, outputs from personal devices, current meals and new diets, home care observations, clinical concerns, medication compliance and other measures of self-monitoring. When the clinician team is ready, they can review these details and set up calls, online sessions and/or secure messages. Future 'patient centered healthcare' is about this type of online file - acted upon by their own healthcare team with them in the cycle of exchange. Online the clients can provide feedback quickly and efficiently, place info directly into their file; the client involved in their own outcomes - making a client more likely to make the effort. We must remember, after everything - it is all about fostering good relationships where both the provider and the client trust each other more and each feel 'heard' in their combined efforts to achieve better health. 

Not only does providing these tools facilitate more frequent and more efficient communication and information-sharing between provider and client, putting patient portal software to use in these ways adds efficiency and convenience to routine healthcare interactions. This benefits clients by reducing the time and effort involved in self-management. It also lightens the administrative load on providers and their staff, which benefits all by freeing more time for meaningful client-provider interactions and improved customer service. Better customer service, like better communication, helps ensure that clients feel valued, respected, and empowered in the healthcare relationship, leading to improved client satisfaction.   


by Dr Sue-Ellen McKelvey PhD MBA DC DO  


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