(This is the follow-up blog to Pros & Cons of Using Patient Portals for Communication)

Service and satisfaction are critical to today’s veterinary healthcare market success. Use of a portal or secure electronic communications can be an effective way to boost engagement and accountability with your referring veterinarians, achieve positive satisfaction, improve practice efficiency, and minimize the consequences associated with the lack of interoperability between practice electronic health records (EHR) systems at other practices, hospital systems and healthcare services.

But if your rDVMs resist the use of a portal or electronic communication service, unfortunately your process may be the cause. Many rDVMs who would benefit from access to referral information are also the ones who may be expected to use a number of other portals for multiple providers, hospitals, pharmacies, and more.

The following suggestions are geared to ensuring that a practice achieves maximum benefits through portal use.

1. Meet rDVMs, and their priorities!

In speaking with many, many specialty hospital administrators there is one repeated and GLARING mistake. The specialty hospital administrators are following the portal vendor’s recommendations on how to set things up rather than talking with their referring veterinarians. Ask yourself, how many specialty hospitals has your portal vendor run? Are they even a veterinarian? If the answer to both is “NO” then “SHOULD YOU BE LISTENING TO THEM? DO THEY UNDERSTAND VETERINARIAN RELATIONSHIPS?”.  If your answer is "NO", in their defense, how could they? Veterinarian interactions are formed beginning day 1 in vet. school and continue through case interactions. If you haven’t experienced this interaction, you WON’T GET IT. EVEN more important, they definitely won’t know your referring veterinarian relationships… but they may pretend to know so they can sell you a product. Don’t let this happen to you.

It cannot be overstated, AVOID this nonsense and build a portal that rDVMs will find useful and that meets their needs by TALKING TO YOUR RDVMS.

  • get them involved in the process early
  • ask them what they need
  • keep them involved throughout the process and acknowledge their involvement

The bottom line is that if rDVMs help build the experience they’re more likely to benefit and will want to continue to use the portal.

2. Integrate your portal into practice workflow

Prior to starting on a portal, verify that the practice workflow will effectively interface with the portal. This is the second biggest mistake I see in talking with so many specialty hospital administrators. Here’s how to avoid being next.

Critically evaluate your hospital’s workflow and decide which areas really can be automated, and which can’t. Also, make sure you have a plan for how the staff will be involved with the portal as information starts flowing. Time and again I speak with hospital administrators who haven’t thought about their workflow. Adapting a portal to your workflow is 100xs easier than retraining your staff. If a portal requires you to change to a new ERH or adjust workflow my recommendation is “RUN AWAY” before you find yourself in retraining hell.

Have a plan from the beginning. For example, assign staff to respond promptly to new appointment requests, upload patient information into the portal on a timely basis if the EHR is not capable of automatically linking the information, and monitor the status of the appointment schedule. Delays in responding over your patient portal is one of the easiest ways to discourage rDVMs from using the service. It will defeat one of the primary reasons to use the portal: the ability to connect directly.

3. Identify rDVMs who will most benefit from portal use

Examine your rDVM list and identify those who can most benefit from communication with the practice through the portal. Then get them involved early (see #1).

  • ·         personally contact each of these rDVMs and ask to spend time with them to discuss building the portal.
  • ·         form an rDVM online group that meets consistently to discuss building the portal as things progress.

Initially this may seem time consuming, but when done correctly, the practice benefits are significant and far outweigh the cost of time spent introducing the portal.

4. Promote the portal

Every encounter your practice has with an rDVM should include outreach on using the portal. To do this, your front-office staff and providers must be on the same page. Practices should also designate at least one employee who is available to meet one-on-one with an rDVM to set up a portal account and help patients navigate and understand the site’s features.

It’s important that every employee who discusses the portal with rDVMs shares a consistent message. It can be helpful to develop a script of important points for employees that cover the benefits of using the portal. It’s critical to include your doctors and other clinical providers in this effort, since their use of the portal will be key to obtaining rDVM buy-in.

5. Constantly evaluate portal usability

The next step is, once these efforts to integrate the portal into the workflow are underway, step back and evaluate how your efforts are working.

Have people outside the practice test the portal’s navigation to ensure it is intuitive and easy to use for rDVMs young and old.  Compare the portal system navigation with other patient e-Information systems for payers and hospital systems, and make changes as needed.

 

Conflict of Interest Disclosure: Vetology does not have any conflicts of interest to disclose. Vetology is an independent company, run by veterinarians, for veterinarians. Vetology does not have any outside investment or ownership by a company or corporation involved in owning or partial ownership in veterinary hospitals (general or specialty) or veterinary lab services.

 

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