The majority of healthcare institutions, retail clinics, and urgent care facilities rely on the patient portal to release COVID-19 test results as they continue to support coronavirus testing initiatives. This trend is putting pressure on businesses and IT firms to make sure that patients can access the patient portal, that it is functional, and that patients can understand the lab data they see on the portal.
Thankfully, a lot of the recommended procedures for uploading COVID-19 lab results via the patient portal are the same as those for posting findings from any other kind of lab testing. As more patients utilise the tool to understand their COVID-19 status, healthcare institutions that provide widespread patient portal access will be able to incorporate the lessons acquired from testing out the best patient portal strategies for lab notifications.
Give Explicit Instructions
Despite the fact that a lot of healthcare facilities have long provided patient portal access, it wasn’t until the COVID-19 epidemic that the technology saw widespread consumer use. Nearly all hospitals offered patient portal access, although many of them claimed that only approximately a quarter of patients had actually signed up for the service as of April 2019, according to the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).
Despite the lack of hard statistics, anecdotal information indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic has been a significant use case for the patient portal. In other words, a lot of patients are now creating portal accounts after realising the value of such a tool in their healthcare journeys. One major driver behind that is patient portal access to COVID-19 lab findings.
However, it also implies that many consumers might not be aware of how to sign in or create an account for the patient portal, and healthcare institutions must take that into consideration. Once more, simple signup instructions for patient portals are not a novel idea. Organizations have always understood the need of making the patient registration procedure simple for a positive experience.
The ONC patient engagement strategy states that it’s crucial to limit the number of input fields needed for patient portal registration. “Select a gateway that offers a simple, secure enrollment method to make the process easier for both you and your users. The gateway should require the patient to input just a few bits of information in order to verify their identification, according to the government. Other healthcare professionals advised making it simpler for patients to log in, especially by creating password requirements that are simple to remember.\
Communicating Easily Understandable Test Results
Regardless of the outcome, data demonstrates that patients prefer to view their lab results via the patient portal or by email. A 2017 study that was presented in the American Journal of Managed Care found that 77% of patients prefer to see their test results online through the patient portal.
The fact that nearly three-quarters of those surveyed claimed to have spent up to an hour waiting at a clinic or hospital for test results indicates that the in-person procedure can be time-consuming. Another 31% claimed that getting lab findings, such as those from a COVID-19 test, lessens the chance that they will overlook crucial clinical information. It is simpler for them to refer back to those results if they are inside the gateway.
However, there are certain restrictions on this. The language used in the patient portal must be comprehensible for patients seeing lab results at home without their clinicians by their sides. According to some estimates, just 36% of US patients have appropriate health literacy skills, hence it is the responsibility of physicians and the tools they employ to make information accessible.
According to research published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association in December 2017, patients will be better able to understand their actual medical state if physician remarks are included with lab data.
It might be advantageous for patient portals to produce simple language to indicate a positive or negative result in the case of a COVID-19 test. It could be helpful to provide patients with a message that says “COVID-19 positive” or “COVID-19 negative” and then give them the opportunity to look more closely at the results if they so choose.
Managing an Orderly Call Center
Of course, a patient who is viewing the results of her COVID-19 lab test via the patient portal is still free to call. Even if she tested negative, she could still want to follow up regarding the next steps because, as was already mentioned, she might not understand her findings. Some patients might have had trouble utilising the patient portal at all and prefer to phone the clinic or hospital to get their results. For a favourable patient experience, it will be crucial to keep those lines open and moving quickly.
Many healthcare companies used call centre automation during the early epidemic surge to transport patients through the phone lines swiftly. Automation can assist in identifying patient needs and directing patients to the appropriate sources of information. Patients may speak with a call centre bot for specific questions like parking directions.
However, if a patient needs to speak with a doctor about her COVID-19 test findings, an automated system can also direct her to a contact centre employee. Allowing call centre agents to handle more calls more rapidly, could enhance the patient experience.