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How to Set Up a Patient Portal: An Essential Guide for Healthcare Providers

  • Written By: Cheyenne Kolosky
How to Set Up a Patient Portal An Essential Guide for Healthcare Providers

Patient portals are pivotal in streamlining healthcare management tasks and offering patients and care providers increased accessibility. This guide aims to assist healthcare providers in understanding and implementing a functional patient portal so they can focus on providing the world-class healthcare their patients deserve.

What is a Patient Portal?

A patient portal — also known as a personal health record (PHR) — is a confidential online database that allows patients to access their medical records anywhere at any time. Patient portals can also be configured for patients to schedule, cancel, or change appointments, update their insurance, make payments, complete forms, request prescriptions, or participate in telehealth activities, like sending secure messages. These capabilities bridge the gap between patients and providers, creating more effective communication and management of healthcare processes.

Developing a Patient Portal

Developing a patient portal can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. In most cases, it can be as easy as putting yourself in your patient’s shoes to identify their needs and finding an app builder with the necessary capabilities to make it happen.

Begin by identifying the desired features and capabilities of your patient portal. This is the stage in which implementing market and technical analysis can be helpful. While it may be tempting to include every available option, choosing to do so can make a portal overwhelming and frustrating to use.

When selecting features and capabilities, be sure to ask yourself what your patients want from their portals. For instance, one of the most requested capabilities of patient portals is the ability to schedule appointments without calling. Meanwhile, other patients may appreciate the ability to make payments and view service costs before making an appointment. 

Your target audience will impact what you choose to include, however, basic capabilities such as accessing health records and communicating with providers should also be included. It is imperative that you consider the core purpose of a patient portal when choosing features to provide an enjoyable, hassle-free experience that will benefit your patients. 

No-code tools like Knack allow teams of varied technical skill sets to develop their own patient portal solutions. These tools are user-friendly, time-saving, fully customizable, and effective. We recommend using no-code platforms for simpler development processes and faster go-live times.

Designing the Patient Interface

Unlike many other industries, healthcare caters to people of all ages and backgrounds, making designing the patient interface of a patient portal tricky. Because of this, navigation and accessibility are of the utmost importance. Remember: Patients are not going to utilize a system they feel is complicated and of no benefit to them.

Patient portals should be as easy to navigate and access as possible. When designing the patient interface, always have those with limited technical skills at the forefront of their minds. It is also crucial to ensure that the app can be used by patients with various physical demands, such as sight, hearing, and motor skill differences. 

One way to improve navigation and accessibility is to include detailed visual aids. Visual aids provide patients with an alternative method of interpreting and understanding complex medical information that may be available to them in their portals. Not only is this feature visually appealing, but it empowers patients to be more independent and take charge of their health.

Integrating Communication Tools

Communication tools can be integrated directly into patient portals. Many patient portals include both a secure messaging system and a telemedicine system. These systems facilitate effective provider-patient interactions, from asking quick questions to hosting video consultations. 

Including these tools in patient portals extends the reach of healthcare services, making them even more accessible. Due to privacy regulations such as HIPAA, all implemented communication channels must be secure.

Enhancing Healthcare Management

Although patient portals tend to be designed to make life easier for patients, they can also enhance healthcare management practices. Through automation, portals can be configured to handle prescription requests and refills to streamline the process for healthcare providers. Utilizing the advanced security protocols already in place, patient portals can also manage and release sensitive lab results to ensure professional oversight. Features such as these reduce the amount of time and effort healthcare providers spend on repetitive tasks, thus improving patient experience.

Implementing Additional Portal Functions

Out of the many additional portal functions available, we recommend implementing the following capabilities to make your patients’ experiences more enjoyable.

Online Payments

Online payment functionality is one of the most useful and sought-after features in patient portals. Adding this function creates convenient billing and transaction options for patients. It allows patients to see prices for services ahead of time, giving them the freedom to decide whether or not a service is right for them. This function also gives them the flexibility to use different payment methods.

Educational Content

Because healthcare is a complex field overflowing with jargon, many patients leave their doctor’s appointments without fully understanding the information they were given, leaving them vulnerable to endless consequences. The inclusion of personalized educational materials in patient portals gives people the opportunity to access and revisit pertinent information whenever they need it. This improves patient-provider communication and cooperation, which leads to a more favorable outcome for patients. 

Symptom Checker

​​Incorporating a symptom checker functionality into a patient portal is a significant advancement in healthcare technology. This feature empowers patients to assess their symptoms, gain valuable insights, and make informed decisions about their health year-round. It enhances patient self-care and improves healthcare provider interactions by facilitating more precise and relevant discussions. With the ability to input symptoms and receive tailored guidance, patients can better understand their health conditions and access timely care, contributing to improved healthcare outcomes and health literacy. It’s a valuable addition to any patient portal, ensuring patients can take control of their health at any time.

Addressing Potential Portal Challenges

Every piece of technology tends to come with its own challenges. In order to create and maintain a positive user experience, it is best to identify and address any potential challenges before they have the opportunity to occur. 

The most common — and most frustrating — potential challenges that should be addressed are navigation difficulties, mobile device incompatibility, and security concerns. The prevention of these challenges should be a top priority for healthcare providers. To make investing in patient portals worthwhile, they should be designed to be as intuitive and secure as possible before patients gain access to them. If a portal is not user-friendly or HIPPA compliant, patients will not use it.

Planning and Prototyping

Take the time to do extensive research on patient portals and the available features before beginning your project. It is always a good idea to include portals belonging to your competitors in your research to gain insight into what works in real-life situations and what doesn’t. Your pre-development plan should include the following:

  • Your vision
  • Your requirements
  • Budget
  • Current pain points
  • Patient needs and wants

Once you have a solid plan in place, your team can compile a list of proposed features and begin to develop your patient portal prototype. 

UI/UX Design Considerations

During the UI/UX design phase, you should focus on user interface and experience. Review the prototype from the perspective of patients, fellow healthcare providers, and administrative staff with varying levels of technical ability. Once a prototype of every feature has been created and reviewed, it goes through testing with real users to ensure the portal meets the needs of every user group. This is one of the most critical steps of development because a prototype that does not align with the needs and expectations of its users is not ready to be launched.

Ongoing Portal Maintenance

Just because a patient portal has gone live does not mean development is over. For a portal to remain beneficial, it must undergo regular maintenance. This maintenance includes improvements based on experiences and feedback from users as well as updated security regulations and general bug fixes. When patient portals are developed using no-code app builders like Knack, they do not require significant maintenance resources.

Innovative Digital Solutions in Healthcare

Because healthcare is extremely complex and continually evolving, there is great potential for healthcare apps to grow and flourish. Although patient portals are already modernizing healthcare, the integration of technological innovations in the future, such as AI and advanced automation, could revolutionize the industry.

While the incorporation of some emerging technologies has yet to happen, the use of no-code platforms in healthcare app development has grown. Now, even healthcare spaces with no technical assistance can create visually appealing, useful apps without writing a single line of code. No-code platforms like Knack let teams take control of their app development process by offering fully customizable options that align with their needs and desires.

Revolutionize Your Patient Portal with Knack

Implementing a patient portal is a crucial step toward enhancing healthcare accessibility and patient engagement. When built with intention, the user-friendly nature of these portals empowers patients to take an active role in managing their health, fostering a sense of control and responsibility. 

By streamlining communication between healthcare providers and patients, portals contribute to improved efficiency in delivering care. The emphasis on data security and privacy safeguards patient information, ensuring trust in the digital healthcare landscape. Ultimately, embracing patient portals not only meets the evolving needs of healthcare delivery but also promotes a more collaborative and patient-centric approach to well-being.

If you’re ready to revolutionize your patients’ healthcare experience, start building with Knack for free today!