Pain Point: Need Patient Portal
by Leigh-Ann Renz, 2.22.16
Do you need a patient portal for your clients? Do you need a mental health software that gives your clients direct access to their data?
While patient portals have been steadily advancing into the offices of family doctors and their commonly referred specialists, portals are starting to become more popular with mental health practices as well.
What is a Patient Portal?
A patient portal is a secure method that a client can use to connect with their provider and / or the practice that provides their treatment. It gives them access to certain records, such as their insurance paperwork, intake form, consent to treatment, summary of care, etc.
While each practice usually gives their clients access to a unique combination of documents; by definition, a patient portal gives clients access to a practice.
What Are the Benefits?
One of the benefits of a patient portal is that it can save your practice time and labor: instead of answering inquiries in real-time over the phone, clients can access information themselves. Some providers are even forcing their patients onto a portal, reserving phone calls for appointment scheduling only.
Having a portal can reduce the burden on your staff of:
- completing intake packets
- updating insurance documents
- obtaining patient signatures, and the like.
*Some portals even allow clients to schedule or cancel their own appointments and / or communicate with providers.
What Are the Downsides?
- Not everybody has Web access. Some of your clients may not have a computer at home or a smart phone with which to access a patient portal.
- Not everyone is open to using a portal. As much as the general technology landscape is continuing to rapidly change, many people are simply used to calling their doctors, including their mental health provider. There are plenty of smart, capable patients who just aren’t in the habit of utilizing a portal and continue to use traditional methods like calling – until they’re forced into a different way of communicating.
- Clients tend to have a more emotional relationship with their therapist or psychiatrist, so while they might be inclined to use a portal with their general practitioner, they may prefer the emotional connection of actually talking to their mental health provider / office.
- Portals present a data risk. There’s always the possibility that someone other than your client has obtained their portal login and is accessing prohibited PHI or falsifying data.
Are Mental Health Patient Portals Different?
Mental Health portals are not inherently different; however, because behavioral health is a unique specialty, it can present some specialized challenges to the adoption and utilization of patient portals. For example, whereas another specialty may have the liberty of only allowing phone calls for scheduling – and forcing everything else to flow through the portal – mental health is often more nuanced.
Because behavioral health challenges can be harder to define and contain, it often falls outside of the scope of “call 911 if this is an emergency; otherwise, use the portal”. There can be mental health grey areas of variance in between emergency and business-as-usual, especially if there is a behavioral checklist (like in ABA) – or a caretaker is calling on behalf of the client and can’t measure the patient’s mental health status. Additionally:
- Clients may want human interaction in a specialty that, because it has more stigma, therefore feels more vulnerable.
- Clients with certain mental health and / or substance abuse challenges might simply not have the capability to utilize a portal.
- Portals offer a type of data exchange and communication flow that empowers the patient by making them accountable for – and involved in – their own care. This can be especially important for mental health clients, who often need stronger boundaries, greater structure, and more responsibility for their progress than other types of medicine.
How Do I Make a Portal Work for My Practice?
Because each portal – and each Practice Management System that a portal connects to – is so different, you really have to communicate with your EHR provider. Have them demonstrate the bells & whistles of what’s available to you and how you can accomplish your individual portal goals with their product.
Be sure to have them thoroughly train you on how to use the portal, and see if they offer any kind of printed materials you can give your clients to encourage usage. Your patient portal success is largely dependent on your relationship with your EHR vendor – and the capabilities of the product itself.
Contact us to see how can PIMSY solve your pain points: 877.334.8512, ext 1 – firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re happy to show you how PIMSY can save time, reduce costs, and increase practice profitability.