Patient Portal: Designing a Better Patient and Clinician Experience

Woman happily holding a book

In the United States and around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed how behavioral health clinicians provide care. Indeed, health information technology (HIT) has become a staple of health care delivery.

As research shows, patient portals have become increasingly popular. Patients expect to be able to schedule appointments, pay bills, and communicate with their caregivers online. This growing demand not only means that patients want to access their personal health information digitally, but they also expect to have a good, user-friendly experience while they’re at it. 

By embracing technology like integrated electronic health records (EHRs) and patient portals, you can improve your patient’s ability to receive care when they need it and enjoy the experience you provide. At the same time, you can improve the administrative and clinical efficiency of your behavioral health organization. It’s a win-win. 

Let’s take a closer look at how a patient portal can benefit both patients and providers and how it can be a great first step in developing a patient engagement strategy.

Getting Over the Barriers to Entry

Health information technologies like EHR systems, patient engagement platforms, and patient portals should make your life easier, not harder. Yet many clinicians in behavioral health and human services cite alert fatigue and undue non-clinical and clinical documentation burdens among the reasons for burnout. This may explain why behavioral health has been slow to adopt EHRs and patient portals. 

The good news is that there are ways to reduce the burden of EHRs and patient portals. Here are a few optimization strategies and suggestions from the American Medical Association to reduce burnout. 

Simplify Ordering and Documentation

Work with your IT team to implement one-click orders. These are common order sets that you use often when you admit a patient to the hospital, discharge them from treatment, and provide follow-up. ContinuumCloud's EHR makes it easy to quickly access all of the most common order sets that are used by health care professionals.

Automate as Many Tasks as Possible

To use an analogy, workflow automations are the “duck’s feet paddling just below the surface of the water.” You can’t see them but you know they are there continually moving forward. These automations support your company’s revenue cycle (billing, coding), ensure proper clinical documentation, fill the gaps, help you meet deadlines, and keep you in compliance with state regulations. 

Reach Out to Your Vendor for Support

Behavioral health organizations face unique challenges. It’s critical to partner with a vendor that understands your needs. For instance, when you choose ContinuumCloud, you get a team of industry experts with products and services designed exclusively for behavioral health, human services, and mental health organizations. 

How a Patient Portal Increases Administrative Efficiency

We understand why some organizations put off adopting a patient portal or an EHR — nobody wants to be swamped by the communications, messages, and notifications of a new system. However, patient portal adoption correlates with administrative and clinical efficiency. 

Case in point: ContinuumCloud's EHR software, complete with a patient portal, can streamline processes and help team members work more efficiently. Here are just a few examples of how that translates into day-to-day operations:

  • Automate time-consuming workflows and repetitive business processes so that your team can send both one-time and scheduled measures directly to clients through the portal rather than calling them.
  • Create workflow automation that updates the patient record and sends a notification to the patient when the auto-generated summary of outcome measures is complete.
  • Reduce how much time your front office staff spends making and receiving phone calls by automating appointment reminders and enabling online scheduling.

How a Patient Portal Improves Patient Support and Boosts Engagement

Patient portal: man happily using his phone

Patient support is vital to patient engagement as it is tied to improved health outcomes. Portals benefit patients in several ways with telehealth, direct messaging, and chat extending the continuum of care. A second benefit is that they provide access to the electronic health record, which encourages patient autonomy. Lastly, patient portals give patients account access so they can manage their financial obligations. 

ContinuumCloud’s patient portal is intuitive and easy to use. Patients can send and receive HIPAA-compliant secure messages from their care team. Instead of waiting on hold or for a callback, patients can request prescription refills, self-schedule appointments, and review upcoming appointments. They can also view lab results, check test results, and read clinical summaries (if allowed per your policy). Patients can even make payments and update their insurance, address, phone number, and change their password from the patient portal. 

In addition to an EHR with a built-in patient portal, ContinuumCloud also offers a patient engagement app. The CaredFor app gives patients more ways to connect and communicate. It’s open to alumni, family, and caregivers who may not have access to the patient portal. From the CaredFor app, users can send HIPAA-compliant messages and peruse vetted educational content. 

How a Patient Portal Reduces Social Stigma and Increases Access

Research shows that some patients will avoid seeking treatment for mental and behavioral health issues when they feel it may stigmatize them. In one study by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, 31% of respondents stated they didn’t get the care they wanted and needed because they were worried about social stigma and how their loved ones, peers, and others close to them would react. Moreover, 29% of respondents stated that lack of awareness about resources also led to not seeking help.

The CaredFor app is the ideal complement to your EHR and patient portal. It aims to increase engagement, reduce attrition, and normalize behavioral and mental health therapies through several features:

  • Peer support: The CaredFor app enables patients (alumni and family members) to engage with each other and share their experiences and challenges online by facilitating and monitoring peer support groups within their community.
  • Patient learning and education: The CaredFor app includes a collection of reliable content that is tailored to your programming approach and treatment plan in order to provide comprehensive patient education. This can reduce the likelihood of patients turning to unreliable sources with misinformation. 
  • Patient support between appointments: You can automate quick (1-3 minute) surveys, feedback, and questionnaires. Plus, you can send out reminders to patients via the mobile app, which makes it easy to keep them on top of their appointments. 

Select the EHR Patient Portal Designed to Help You Succeed

Patient portal: psychologist wearing headphones and using a computer

The demand for behavioral health services has been outpacing the supply since the pandemic began. EHR integration, patient portals, and patient engagement platforms can each play a part in helping you better support your patients by improving access, reducing stigma, and normalizing treatment-seeking behaviors. 

Behavioral health and human services organizations may be concerned that going digital will require hosting a server, installing software, and contending with security patches and data breaches. But by partnering with the right vendor, you can avoid paying for costly infrastructure. 

Look for technology vendors that offer cloud-based solutions that don’t require expensive hardware. ContinuumCloud’s EHR solution is cloud-based and platform-agnostic, which means you (and your patients) can access records through the patient portal from almost any location, using any device, whenever you (or they) wish as long as you have an internet connection.

A patient portal facilitates better communication and helps patients feel more satisfied with their health care experience. Moreover, when patients are able to communicate with their behavioral health care provider, therapist, social worker, or case manager, they may experience more connectedness and less stigma. 

To find out more about ContinuumCloud’s practice management solution including a comprehensive EHR with a patient portal and patient engagement app, connect with us today.

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