5 Ways Patients Want Online Communications

If you’re in the business of providing clinical health services and managing the corresponding clinical health records, you know that patients want online patient communications, and to the people in your organization that can answer questions about it. They also want assurance that the process of exchanging the information and related communication channels are secure and HIPAA compliant (as will your chief compliance officer and CISO). Here are five primary ways that patients want secure access to their information.

1. Any device, anytime, anywhere:

While patients still make phone calls to request access to their medical records, there’s an increasing preference to ‘self-serve’ via connected devices – smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop – even in sensitive healthcare situations. But these are just the devices. What the patient uses to access their information and correspond with clinical staff and medical records staff are online applications, services and portals. Items 2 thru 6 speak to the access and exchange of information to and from these popular endpoints.

2. Accessing medical records and communicating thru your website:

Many patients will go to your website or portal not only to access their medical record, but also to contact you online. They are looking for an email address, a web inquiry form, or a live chat. Whatever the on-line communication channel, they want to use these methods to connect with you and get their questions answered quickly. Offering one or more of these options using a secure contact feature or an integrated message center is a great way to provide the online patient communications access and service that patients want from their healthcare providers.

3. Sharing test results for a second opinion or with a specialist:

It’s very common for a patient to request their lab results or diagnostic images to share with another provider or specialist. They may want access to their digital record so they can send it along to the next provider, or they may request you send it there. If the second provider is not in the same network as the first provider, the patient still has an expectation that provider #1 can easily send the patient’s digital records, including images like x-rays to provider #2 without the delay of US Mail or courier, or the degradation and loss of useable data structure from fax. Direct Secure Messaging and SecureMail are great ways to accomplish this with interoperability and efficiency.

4. Uploading test results and diagnostic images:

Perhaps your patient is coming to you as the specialist or seeking a second opinion.  They’ve downloaded a digital x-ray image from the first provider’s patient portal and now want to share it with you. They could login to your patient portal expecting the ability to upload these images and send them to you securely. Here a secure message center with support for file upload (message attachments) will service the need perfectly.

5. Engaging medical billing staff to resolve a billing issue:

On those occasions when a patient needs to resolve a billing issue, a secure messaging center in your patient portal, or a SecureContact button on your website home page or payments page will give them an online patient communications channel to send a secure email to your billing department, with supporting any supporting file or image attachments (think a picture of a notated bill or other document from a iphone – the new mobile document scanner(!). This allows your billing department to review, research and respond when time allows (vs handling phone calls on demand), and also respond to your patient via secure email directly to the patient’s email inbox! All HIPAA compliant and super efficient.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar? Are you ready to accept these types of online patient communications efforts for your organization’s patients? If there is no sensitive information involved then, sure, you probably are. But patient inquiries often include information like their medical condition, x-ray images, social security numbers or account numbers. Many patient portals will divert these kinds of requests to another, secure portal for the patient to use or request items be sent in snail mail or fax. But that makes it more complicated for the patient and more time consuming and expensive for you. Best practices are now to make these kinds of secure communications capabilities available within your existing patient portal or on your website. Your patients and your agents will thank you if you do!

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