Why You Should Stage Patient Portal Implementations

In response to a discussion I started on LinkedIn about the 4 Things Your Patient Portal Should Include, Travis Moore, MBA, RN, VP at MEDSEEK, added some really great insight into how to have a successful patient portal implementation:

I agree with your assessment on trying to do too much. While many portals on the market, including MEDSEEK’s Empower Patient Portal offer a variety of features, what we at MEDSEEK have found is that it is best to roll out with a subset of features vs. the “big bang” approach for two major reasons. One, you don’t want to overwhelm patients with too many features, as they don’t end up using the “essential” ones appropriately to better activate them in their care. It’s like buying the SLR camera that does 100 things. Reality is, you use 3 of the features for a period of time to get the job done, but then over time, you get comfortable and want to take on more because you take a class, a friend teaches you, etc., and your photos become even better. Same for patient portals, you have to have the features available for future use to further enhance the experience, but roll them out methodically.

And two, many organizations just can’t handle the “do everything at once” deployment, operationally speaking. It’s not a technology “thing”, it’s an operational and cultural issue. I can say from first hand experience as Nurse on both the usage, and deployment end, you have to deploy these patient engagement tools in chunks because if your front line personnel, nurses, aren’t able to clearly articulate to the patient what value it will bring to them when they access it, patients are less likely to use the variety of features in a patient portal. And to Mike’s point about a comprehensive view, that’s exactly why an Enterprise solution is required to bring all of that data together into one view for the patient….and with ACOs, the importance of the enterprise access is even more critical. Patient’s don’t know or care what EMRs, scheduling, or billing systems an HCO has, they just want the “Expedia or Banking-like” experience to see and act upon the information regardless of the source system. It is also critical moving forward that interactive plans of care are accessible and actionable for the patients, and / or their family members, to better engage and activate patients in their care where they spend most of their time, outside the four walls of the organization.

I like the idea of a staged portal implementation. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s not possible since some patient portals are an all or nothing exercise. Plus, meaningful use has accelerated so many implementations. It’s too bad, because there’s real value in staged deployments. The beauty of staged deployments is that once you roll out a few features, then people are interested in what else you can roll out. I’ve seen this same principle work in staged EHR implementations as well. Of course, that provides the added challenge of being ready to roll out the rest of the features as well. Otherwise, you end up with unhappy end users.

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference, EXPO.health, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • More important…or maybe really another way of saying staged implementation is actually having a strategy for your portal and its implementation.

    That’s right, I know few had a strategy for their EHR other than to get that MU check…hopefully lessons have been learned, though I fear they haven’t.

    We all know that there are certain age groups/demos that are more inclined to feel comfortable using a patient portal.

    Further, it seems the more rural a practice, the less interest the patients have.

    Well, this and the “bean counting” that is pushed by MU drove me to come up with 10 strategies for driving patients to the portal.

    Let me be clear, I think the access a portal gives is great, heck I think an EHR in general are great, but then again, I’m computer oriented.

    MU “counters” don’t really care how useful a portal is, just that people access it X number of times. Sure, you can point out that, right now, it is actually X% of patients blah blah, but this doesn’t matter, your goal should be that each patient accesses the portal X number of times a year.

    Just like other MU counters, your goal shouldn’t be to meet the number, but to exceed the numbers, and this usually means changing processes to ensure every patient has the chance to be one of those counters.

    The unfortunate reality of how MU accounts for things has turned this whole process into a game.

    Start treating this like a game and you may find it easier to accept and easier to meet those numbers.

    Oh, yes, don’t be offended by thinking of this as a game, because as long as you succeed at the game, your patients will benefit.

  • I think that on a lot of strategic roadmaps “patient portal” is listed as a goal…a one time deadline without understanding how the patient portal works; what information flows into a fully functioning portal and to the patient; and what the system, risk, and security requirements are to consider.

    This will require C level suite and decision makers to ask questions that might be getting them “into the weeds” a bit or questions that they may not know to ask. This is why a several strong consultants that are specialists in individual subject matter might be needed – instead of one project manager expected to move the project plan forward on the road map and to know everything.

  • Terri,
    Good analysis. Portal is usually just one line item in an EHR implementation. I guess this article makes the case for why it should be its own project and not just a line item on the larger EHR project.

  • Agreed. There should be separate project plans running for meeting NHIQM quality measures and Patient Portal in addition to HL7 and ambulatory implementation. What are some of the others that should have their own project plan and team or person as a subset of “EMR Implementation”. If these are correctly outlined in the initial roadmap as separate projects, the rolling implementation of separate venues or features begins to make more sense to those in the decision making position.

    Rolling can be a big bang in separate venues or rolling out nursing and then CPOE and then depart process and then revenue cycle etc. The size of the organization and the system and what the vendor is willing to package or take apart impacts the decision as well.

  • Great article and much agree. Go for staged success. A grand slam may work on occasion, but there are a lot of moving parts and stakeholders with a successful rollout. Bite off success and grow from there.

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