For practices hoping to establish a better rhythm with patient communications, one great way to boost portal messaging and achieve Meaningful Use compliance is to start the conversation with a relevant message that has a call to action. When doctors start the conversation, it could provide positive results in patient responses and serve as a catalyst to establish new habits that position the patient portal as the primary form of communication.
It may be a good idea to cast a wide net with the first attempt at secure online messaging. Start with a common issue that all patients should be aware of, such as getting immunized for the flu or pneumonia. To focus on the proper patient population, run a report from the EHR or EPM application that defines what patients are due for these immunizations based on a given time frame. If the EHR or EPM is incapable of producing this report, sending a more generic message will suffice. Task a member of the staff with writing a brief message about the importance of immunizations, and task the patient with requesting an appointment through a secure message to get his or her shot.
Granted, some specialty doctors do not provide immunizations, but there are numerous alternative clinical reasons for reaching out to a patient to start a conversation. When it gets to the point where a doctor and patient are almost pen pals, then the patient is much more likely to start future conversations through the portal. Prompt and thorough responses are also key to keeping the momentum of patient engagement moving in a positive direction. If a patient does not get a response at least few hours later through the portal, chances are they are going to pick up the phone.
Remember that portal communications are a two way street. This will be crucial to achieveing patient engagement goals. Inviting patients to use the portal is a good ice-breaker, but giving them something to do on it is even better.