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Why are Patient Portals Falling Short?

Paul Boal

The digitization of healthcare is upon us, bringing new challenges and opportunities. We have all the ingredients necessary for two-way, digital engagement allowing for patients to send and receive secure messages, request prescription refills and receive test results through a portal. Are any of these technological advances actually helping us improve health, though?  A study published in late 2017 says not particularly.

Actually, this may not be all that surprising. We don’t expect our banking portals to make us wealthier, but they can create awareness of our financial situations allowing us to budget better and plan for our future.

The Engagement is Off
Why would we not see improved outcomes from a technological solution that seemingly streamlines processes and communication in healthcare? Well, time and time again we see that this is not a technology problem, but a people problem specifically around engagement.  The study reporting the lack of improved outcomes also found that “44% of patients that registered for a portal account, just 20.8% accessed it while they were hospitalized.”

Another report, released by the Government Accountability Office, found that just “15% of hospital patients accessed their medical records, even though 88% of hospitals offer access.” The patients mentioned “poor user experience and wasted time” as the main reasons for this low engagement.

Keep the Change
This doesn’t mean that technology to provide patient access to medical records isn’t valuable. It is critical.  It’s not enough to just build a digital solution and expect it to be adopted by patients, though. We must have a holistic view of the situation and understand human nature if are going to effectively lead change. Each project we are involved in addresses human behavior and adoption toward a specific end goal. This is hard work, but it’s necessary work if we intend for these solutions to lead to better outcomes.

Find out more about our change management philosophy by reaching out to us here.