Patient Portal Implementation Leads to Better Messaging, Greater Efficiency, and Improved Patient Engagement at Desert Ridge Family Physicians
Desert Ridge Family Physicians is a small practice in Phoenix, Arizona with six family physicians and thirteen staff members. Desert Ridge Family Physicians has always been a patient-centered practice with a strong focus on patient engagement. When the practice's electronic health record (EHR) vendor began offering a Patient Portal in 2007, Desert Ridge Family Physicians jumped at the chance to implement this new tool.
Patient Portal Implementation
To encourage patients to sign up for the Patient Portal, a medical assistant (MA) briefly explains the benefits of the Portal as part of the patient rooming process. If the patient is interested, the MA then enrolls the patient. Later in the office visit, the patient's physician reinforces the benefits and convenience of the Patient Portal, and encourages the patient to complete their enrollment at home. Once enrolled, the physician will transmit a clinical summary after their visit, or will send lab results when appropriate. Over 7,000 of the practice's patients have completed their enrollment, representing approximately 70% of their active patients.
Desert Ridge Family Physicians uses the Patient Portal to communicate with and engage their patients. The Patient Portal's two-way messaging capability enables Desert Ridge Family Physicians to:
- Provide patients with clinical summaries after each visit, as required by Meaningful Use Core Measure 13,
- Respond quickly to medication refill requests,
- Answer patient questions effectively and efficiently,
- Send lab results to patients,
- Send patients appointment confirmations after they schedule an appointment to see a physician, and
- Proactively reach out to patients to keep them engaged in their care.
Better Messaging, Greater Efficiency, and Improved Patient Engagement
With the Patient Portal implementation, patients are not only contacting Desert Ridge Family Physicians more frequently, they are also writing better messages. Patients spend time composing thoughtful messages, which reduces the number of back and forth communications.
By cutting the time spent answering phone calls and voicemails, Desert Ridge Family Physicians estimates it saves over two hours of phone time each day. "The Patient Portal allows us to be more engaged with our patients, while taking less time than traditional methods. And the more engaged that a patient is with their health care, the better their health will be," said Dr. Tiffany Nelson, a physician at Desert Ridge Family Physicians.
While the Patient Portal is the most efficient method of communicating with patients outside of the office, the real benefit for Desert Ridge Family Physicians is the improvement in healthcare quality, stemming from their patients' engagement in their health and health care. According to Desert Ridge Family Physicians, one of the best ways to keep patients engaged is through proactive physician outreach. At Desert Ridge Family Physicians, physicians reach out to their patients to proactively check in on their progress. For example, Dr. Nelson recently messaged a patient who just began a diet to see if the diet was progressing well. Dr. Nelson explains, "When a patient receives a personal message from their doctor unexpectedly, it shows that the doctor is on their side. It says, 'I am here to support you.'"