Increasing Patient Engagement with Their Care Through the Portal

Meagan Doran, Physician Practice Coordinator, Virginia Cooperative


hippocampus trickOne of my responsibilities as a practice coordinator is to encourage practices to make small steps that can make a big impact. For instance, one practice that I work with is trying to encourage patients to use their patient portal – an Internet site providing secure online access to their medical records, lab results, prescription refill requests and to ask their clinician questions. When the office manager asked me if I had any strategies for how to engage patients so that they would be more likely to sign up, I explained a strategy that I have coined the “Hippocampus Trick.” Repeat the same information multiple times in different ways so that those receiving the information will be more likely to sign up with the patient portal. I suggested that each role within the office should promote the portal from their own perspective; talking with patients about these  different uses provide new reasons for patients to register with the portal. For example:

  • The front desk staff offers to help them sign up for appointment-making purposes
  • Nurses explain access to lab and medical records through the portal
  • Clinicians tell patients they will be able to ask follow-up questions of clinicians and nurses through the portal and they will receive a response through an email. Staff respond to portal emails just as they do phone calls.

Pairing these messages with assisting patients through the portal registration process during their appointment should not only increase use, but also raise awareness of how the portal can help patients be actively involved with their care, which research has shown can improve healthcare outcomes.