I attended a roundtable discussion at HIMSS covering experiences with Patient Portals, “Patient Portals in Ambulatory Care: Sharing Experiences of the Good and the Bad.” Dr. Kenneth G. Adler, MD, MMM, presented. He is part of Arizona Community Physicians (ACP), and is in the second year of adopting a Patient Portal. To use their portal, patients are charged $10/year.
In the first year, utilization was approximately 5%. This has grown to 6.5% in the second year.
The discussion centered on how to build adoption and utilization of a patient portal with attendees sharing their thoughts not only as providers but also as health consumers. Some key points from that discussion:
- Any cost to consumers has a significant impact on adoption
- Any cost to physicians has a significant impact on adoption (and they are very wary of any administrative cost savings)
- Both are more likely to use (and at some level pay for) the tools if they’ve seen what’s there
- In other words:
- The tools must deliver value to the consumer in order to get them to adopt
- The value delivered must be easy to understand and must be explained (and not assumed to be understood)
- Despite indications that patients who use these tools are unlikely to move to other providers, competitive differentiation does not appear to be a significant consideration. The providers in the room were looking at direct costs and revenues associated with the portal.
The attractiveness (i.e. perceived value) of these tools maps to the individual situation of the consumer. Young consumers are not the highest adopters at ACP. They simply aren’t dealing in large numbers with the chronic health conditions that make their portal attractive enough to spend even a nominal amount.
Young consumers are much more likely to use portal tools for administrative uses: appointment scheduling, massaging and bill payment. They aren’t willing to pay for the privilege.
My takeaway from this: to execute this effectively in your organization requires a plan and business case. Why are you implementing these tools? What do you hope to accomplish as a result? Is that worth the investment? What is the value to health consumers? Which consumers does it apply to? Is that worth the cost you’re asking them to pay?
Working through those questions is a good way to begin. Hopefully it helps you understand what you need to do to your processes to make the rollout successful.