By Laura Marquez, MHA, AVP IT Applications, UConn Health
The digital front door is opening wide and fast, and the patients are knocking. But as technology continues to expand to our fingertips, have you ever wondered if our health IT solutions are landing with our customers as designed? What does the patient portal experience look like? This is a question that has stuck out to UConn Health, so we’ve set out to gain a better understanding from those who can answer it best – the patients.
The patient portal is a really great opportunity for our caregivers and our patients to try out new technology and have another option to connect with their care team.
The secure patient portal is available for UConn patients to access their care, video visits, view test results, letters, message their providers, see upcoming appointments, pay bills, and complete medical questionnaires.
In the last quarter of 2020, UConn Health created a patient portal experience workgroup and welcomed patients from diverse backgrounds (diverse in age, technology experience, and primary languages, to name a few) to experience technology first hand before full deployment. We created a space to welcome direct feedback and allow patients to test functionality in our non-production environment before releasing it to the public.
The patients share real-life experiences, which helps us understand the real-world challenges of navigating personal devices and sheds light on different technology literacy levels. We meet on a monthly basis to ask their opinions, learn the ease of use of new features, and find anywhere someone may get hung up. We ask the patients to go through a workflow without guidance so that we can highlight areas of opportunity for improvement.
One of the quick wins we’ve been able to incorporate was expanding the character limit of patient messages. Such suggested change was brought forth by a patient who experienced an ability to type longer messages at another organization and wanted to see consistency across platforms. Our steering committee was in agreement and we were able to accommodate the request very rapidly.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been able to bring forth new scheduling features for both testing and vaccines, and tested the features with the patient experience workgroup before going live. We conducted an interactive self-scheduling workflow where the workgroup members used their test accounts to act as patients and follow the process of self-scheduling. Patients thought the self-scheduling process was well done and the workflow was easy to follow. We implemented the change the following week and made it available to the public.
We’ve received excellent feedback from our patients, both from the workgroup, and through our patient experience office, that the portal has rapidly improved. In the last year, we’ve seen a 25% increase in our activation rate. The patient portal is a really great opportunity for our caregivers and our patients to try out new technology and have another option to connect with their care team.
We know that health care outcomes improve when patients are engaged, and we know that when patients use an online portal, their engagement increases. Having more patients enroll and take part in different technologies and capabilities through the portal will ultimately improve our patients’ health and wellbeing – and that’s putting our patients first.