5 Tips for Increasing Patient Portal Use For MIPS Scoring

Ashley Tuley, Quality Improvement Advisor Healthcare Consulting

Use of your Patient Portal is a MIPS scoring key.

The most recent CMS changes to the “Promoting Interoperability” manifestation of Meaningful Use for MIPS scoring in 2020 – including the “Provide Patients Electronic Access to their Health Information” measure – can best be met by maximizing patient use of your Patient Portal. Further, increasing the use of your portal by your patient population is a critical tool in engaging and retaining your patients in the COVID-19 environment, and to your business recovery beyond.

The CMS “Promoting Interoperability” criteria emphasizes patient engagement and the electronic exchange of health information using certified electronic health record technology (CEHRT), and is worth 25% of your MIPS final score in 2020. In December 2019, CMS implemented new scoring and measurement policies, increasing focus on interoperability and improving patient access to their health information. With the Patient Electronic Access measure being worth almost half of the Promoting Interoperability category (40 points) and with no exclusions available, we thought we’d highlight a few tips for success in how to improve patient portal use:

1) Patient Portal Success Requires Staff Buy-In

This is one of the most crucial components to launching any successful office initiative. The Patient Access measure is not only a requirement and major piece of the Promoting Interoperability category, it is also efficient and beneficial to both offices and patients. All staff members (including clinicians) must be educated to understand that not only will they be able to deliver higher quality care to your patients at a more efficient cost, but it will also save them time and money within the office. Change is always hard, and extending your care outside the four walls of your office may seem more burdensome; but once the patients are enrolled, understanding that the time saved from eliminating phone calls by instead using the portal’s features (including secure messaging, patient education, lab results and refill requests) will quickly make it apparent how much this will benefit your staff.

2) Patient Buy-In Is Critical for Increasing Patient Portal Use

Communicating to your patients the benefits of the patient portal, and how this will make their lives easier, is another crucial component of success for this measure. Every patient interaction is an opportunity to educate them on the benefits of using the patient portal. This is specifically useful when a patient is providing feedback on issues such as long hold times while scheduling an appointment, or having to call the office for their lab results or refill requests. You can take this time to educate the patient about how enrolling through the patient portal can eliminate these frustrations, and put their health information at their fingertips even during non-business hours.

3) Ease of Access Improves Patient Portal Usage

Once your staff is engaged and patients are intrigued by the idea, another tip for success is marketing the patient portal and making access easy. Some of the most effective marketing approaches are:

  • Helping your patients register for the portal while they are in your office
  • Mass enrolling patients
  • Providing handouts with step-by-step instructions with illustrations
  • Having marketing materials available to your patients that highlight enrollment and new features through different media such as posters, TVs, flyers, website features etc.

Also, statistics have shown that many patients use their mobile device to access their patient portal, so ensuring that your portal has the compatibility for mobile access is key.

4) Promote Patient Portal Use at Each Interaction

Every interaction with your patient is an opportunity to promote and gain buy-in to increase patient portal use. Depending on the features of your patient portal, here are a few opportunities to market the patient portal directly:

  • When a patient calls to schedule, reschedule or cancel an appointment
  • When a patient calls to pay a bill
  • When a patient needs a copy of a visit note
  • When a patient has misplaced education and/or paperwork
  • When a patient calls with a question for their clinician
  • When a patient calls for a refill
  • When a patient calls for a referral

Whether your EHR has the capability to perform just one or all the above features, each is an opportunity to engage another patient to increase patient portal use.

5) Don’t Assume Which Patients Will Use the Portal

The number one pushback from offices to engage patients in the portal tends to be around the age barrier of their patients, usually based upon assumption. There are endless statistics that support that age in general does not deter patients from signing up and engaging in a patient portal. With the right education and assistance in enrolling where needed, patients with chronic conditions regardless of age tend to be more engaged with the patient portal than those without chronic conditions. Encourage staff to fully educate all patients on the patient portal and its features. You may be surprised with the results!

Also, don’t assume that just because you are capturing a patient’s email that they will automatically be enrolled into the portal and that the patient will receive all of their intended information. It is crucial that you clarify this workflow with your EHR at least annually to ensure that new patients are being captured for reporting purposes and sent messaging to use the patient portal.

Further, for patients, staff, and clinicians alike, it’s likely that increased use of your patient portal and other distance-care technologies have already escalated (out of necessity) in the COVID-19 pandemic environment. People are spending more time online and are more engaged with patient portals and other digital engagement with their physician practice. This increased focus on digital communication will also help to reduce reluctance and increase familiarity and acceptance of using the patient portal, with all constituencies.

Medical Advantage Can Help Improve Patient Portal Use

With MACRA being such a fluid program, it can be challenging for practices to keep up. Now is a great time to consider hiring consultants like Medical Advantage’s MIPS Consultants. Our MIPS consultants have years of experience working as practice managers, nurses, and billing specialists. With our full-time focus and devotion to this program, we can offer insights to help your practice succeed in MACRA for 2020 and beyond. In 2019, we helped 1,200 clinicians exceed the national average in MIPS scores, with 99% achieving Exceptional Performer status with CMS. Get in touch today for a free consultation to find out how our services can support your practice.

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