Sitting in a waiting room used to be a time to read through a two year old Highlight or National Geographic magazine or face the alternative; looking around with mindless peace at the various decorations, posters, paintings or other patients who are sharing this somewhat awkward, passive human interaction. Understanding fully that most people have exited the arena of old fashioned, waiting room time killing due to the widespread use of smart phones, medical practices still have the opportunity to do a bit of promotion before patients are led to exam rooms.
Practices need to take full advantage of their captive audience by promoting the patient portal in the waiting room, and specifically, educate patients on how a patient portal can make their lives easier. Planting the seed of portal utilization in the waiting room combined with positive reinforcement from the staff stating that the portal is the preferred communication method could be the difference between achieving patient engagement for Meaningful Use and accepting a Medicare payment reduction in the future.
Most quality patient portal vendors will provide practices with marketing materials to help the practice convert patients from phone callers to online engagers. Materials should include something for the patient to take home with them so that they can recall the conversations they had in regards to the portal and have a physical reminder that they need to open this new communication channel with their doctor. The more a patient is reminded about using a portal, the more likely they are to embrace the technology.
Of course, it doesn't end in the waiting room. Exam rooms and check out also make for prime points of emphasis as to where passive marketing materials need to be posted. The more diverse the material's message the better. If a vendor offers multiple options for posters, take advantage of all of them, even if it does not match the chairs from a fashionable perspective. Proper marketing in office, a well educated and evangelical staff, and follow up email marketing campaigns are the well balanced attack that will have a practice engaging patients online well above meaningful use thresholds if properly implemented.