Oct 07, 2022

Digiteum Team

patient portal

Digital Strategy, Web

7 Essential Patient Portal Features for Your Product

There are patient portal features that drive engagement, features to ensure your patients show up, and features that help you slash operating costs without decreasing the quality of healthcare services.

According to 2021 research by Epic Research, the use of patient portals shortens hospital stays by up to 1.1 days, which saves (US) healthcare and insurance providers $2-3K per day.

If you plan to develop or scale a patient portal for your practice and consider different features to make it engaging and useful for your customers, this 5-minute read will come in handy. We will talk about:

  • Must-have features for every patient portal.
  • Valuable features of portals for patients with chronic diseases.
  • Benefits of different features and how they affect healthcare expenses and outcome.
  • A few essentials to remember before starting web portal development.

But first, a quick review of the role of patient portals in the modern healthcare space.

Patient portal breakdown

What is a patient portal and why is it a big deal in healthcare?

A patient portal is a web application that allows patients to easily access their medical data and services online. It gives patients tools to carry out routine healthcare activities such as getting a prescription or scheduling doctor appointments online on any device. As a result, patients become active participants in their healthcare experience. This brings a whole host of benefits for patient outcomes and explains the rapidly-increasing popularity of portals.

Finnish patient portal My Kanta has a mind-boggling 89% adoption rate across the country.

All patient portals can be divided into two groups: integrated and standalone.

Integrated patient portals

An integrated patient portal is a part of a larger healthcare solution, e.g. practice management software or EHR. It is seamlessly connected with other modules in the system enabling fast and secure circulation of data. These portals, however, may lack the flexibility and customization provided by their standalone counterparts.

Standalone patient portals

As the name implies, this patient portal is a standalone solution configured or custom-designed to address specific client needs or requirements. These applications can exist outside other systems within the organization (patient management software, EHR). Although, standalone patient portals can also be integrated into the in-house infrastructure via API on demand.

Create frictionless experience for all your patients

Develop a secure and compliant patient portal to boost patient engagement and drive operational efficiency.

Show web portal services

There are a few key patient portal functions and features that you will find in nearly every application in this market.

  • Access to health records and patient data
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Prescription request/refill
  • Contact with healthcare provider/assistant
  • Online payments/billing
  • Access to medical content

Let’s look into the key features of web portals for patients in detail and see how they help improve patient engagement and overall healthcare experience.

7 critical features of patient portals

patient portal features

Sign-up and login

Registration and secure access to medical data and services are the first key features of patient portals. Without them, a patient portal is just a general-use healthcare website.

Much like any other web portal, a patient portal must have strong security and authentication for sign-up and login. It is essential for patient data protection and HIPAA compliance. At the same time, registration and entry should be intuitive and take only a few clicks. Anything more complex than that may seriously affect the portal adoption rate. And you don’t want that.

Patient account and dashboard

Depending on the organization and type of portal, a patient account may have only a few data fields to fill. Or can be designed as a single feature-rich space where patients get access to everything – from visit reports to daily diet recommendations. In most cases, account and dashboard allow patients to:

  • Fill in/change personal information
  • Access available medical data (health records, test results, examinations, vaccination reports, etc.)
  • Access other features of a patient portal (prescription refill, online appointment, billing, etc.)
  • Set up and change settings (notifications, privacy, etc.)

E-prescription

Online prescriptions and prescription refills are convenient for some patients and vital for others. This feature was a game-changer during the hardest months of the pandemic, especially for patients with chronic diseases and the elderly who rely on regular medication. And it is just as relevant today.

The e-prescription module is often integrated with a cloud-based pharmaceutical database. This allows to deliver and access prescriptions in any connected pharmacy within minutes. Paired with medication reminders and monitoring, e-prescription becomes one of the most effective tools to increase medication adherence.

Appointments

Want to reduce no-shows? Give your patients the opportunity to schedule their appointments online and combine it with timely reminders. In fact, appointment scheduling is one of the most desired features of patient portals.

Availability for appointments is the top (44%) most important thing patients expect from healthcare providers, according to a 2021 survey by Redpoint Global.

Online appointments and interactive calendars make scheduling doctor visits easy and fast on any device. It saves patients from long phone calls and cuts out a large chunk of administrative work for your staff.

Telehealth

patient portal features

Instant chat and video consultations are common features of medical portals both for doctors and patients. And for a good reason. Telehealth helps create frictionless communication between patients and healthcare providers, reduces response time, and decreases the need for in-person hospital visits.

The best part? Integrating these features is less expensive and time-consuming than you may think. Modern communication platforms like Twilio allow to add video, audio, and text messengers to applications fast and cost-effectively.

Billing and payment

Online billing and secure payment give patients the flexibility to manage their healthcare expenses from anywhere. Along with fast and easy access, these features also bring transparency, allowing patients to keep track of their spending on medicals, outpatient care, as well as insurance coverage. As a provider, you will reduce the time and effort spent on medical billing and insurance management.

Personalized content

Educational content stands aside from other popular functions of patient portals. This feature is particularly valuable for a certain category of customers such as patients with chronic conditions or patients undergoing long-term treatment. The personalized educational content in this case serves as information support and helps boost participation and engagement among patients.

Example: When designing Focus on Lymphoma application for lymphoma patients, we added personalized educational content along with a comprehensive set of features – e-prescription, medication management, doctor-to-patient communication, and symptom tracking. It tailors content to the needs of patients with different lymphoma subtypes at different stages of their journey, from recently diagnosed to undergoing treatment. The application quickly became the #1 place for getting verified relevant information for lymphoma patients (treatment and therapies options, clinical trial) and won several awards as The Best App and The Best New Medical App on App Store.

patient engagement solutions

Other features to consider

Along with these essential patient portal features, you may look into other functions that support your patients’ lifestyles and routines. Consider health tracking and reporting, integration with wearables and medical IoT devices, as well as health insurance coverage and benefits checks.

Benefits of patient portals

We have briefly outlined how different features can benefit your patients and your practice. Let’s wrap it up:

Improve patient engagement

Widespread adoption of patient portals has proven to significantly boost patient engagement. Patients who use portals highlight better communication with their care providers, the ability to track all their health data, as well as overall transparency of the healthcare process.

Optimize resource use

All features of a medical portal that we have mentioned one way or another lead to cutting waste and optimizing the use of healthcare resources and healthcare providers’ time. For example, telehealth and health tracking features reduce hospital visits and optimize the use of hospital space and doctor’s time. Self-check-ins, online payments, and scheduling decrease the load on staff enabling better time management, process automation, and more patient-centered care.

patient portal features

Reduce healthcare cost

As we said at the outset, active use of patient portals helps reduce hospital stays, potentially saving patients, healthcare providers and insurance agencies a ton of money. And this is only one saving point among many:

  • Reduced supply and administrative costs
  • Reduced labor costs
  • Optimized facility management costs
  • Reduced treatment costs

Increase medication adherence

E-prescriptions and prescription refills have been directly linked to improved medication adherence and self-care management across all groups of patients.

Things to remember when developing web portals for patients

Comply with stringent regulations

Every healthcare application – a patient portal, telehealth app, or EHR – must be designed and built with relevant regulations and laws in mind. These regulations are usually focused on the privacy and security of healthcare data. HIPAA (US), HITECH Act (US), PIPEDA (CA), and GDPR (EU) are just some of the most prominent examples. Local alternatives may also apply.

Focus on user-centered design and inclusivity

For some patients, online portal features may be hard to access and use. You should factor this at an early stage and figure out how to make the portal inclusive and accessible to all user groups, regardless of tech skills or physical limitations. Start with the user-centered design process to better understand your audience and their needs. You may also consider using accessibility features like text-to-speech, screen magnifier, typeface and font size adjustment, and language localization to create a better user experience for all your customers.

Personalization

Patient data is a massive source of untapped opportunities. Using data-driven personalization, you can tailor services, content, and the entire user experience on your portal to the specific needs of each individual patient – recommend the nearest clinic or pharmacy based on geo data, suggest useful content based on patient data, or customize portal navigation based on the services that patients use the most.

Create a quality user-centered web portal with Digiteum

Build a patient portal tailored to the needs of your audience while keeping the focus on your delivery timeline and budget.

We can help you design and develop a user-centered patient portal from scratch or speed up your ongoing project by adding senior tech specialists on demand.

Our expertise in this niche includes:

  • 12+ years in eHealth and patient portal software development.
  • Dozens of eHealth applications delivered for such clients as Takeda, Lymphoma Research Foundation, Diaceutics, MSD, OLVG, and NextGate.
  • Rich experience in application development for pharma, clinics, medical device producers, and healthcare analytics companies.
  • Award-winning medical application (Focus on Lymphoma, How Do I?).
  • End-to-end web portal development services from discovery to launch.

Create a ridiculously easy-to-use patient portal

Make it fast and easy for your patients to access your services and become loyal customers for life.

HIRE WEB PORTAL DEVELOPERS

Quick round-up

  • Patient portal adoption skyrocketed as this instrument proved to make the healthcare experience significantly better and more efficient for patients and providers.
  • There are several essential patient portal features that help drive engagement and improve outcomes, including e-prescription and online appointment scheduling.
  • Knowing which features to choose and prioritize will help you design and develop an engaging patient-centric portal as well as improve your practice and cut operating costs.

FAQ

What are the features of patient portals?
There are several critical features that make patient portals engaging and increase adoption: online appointment tracking, e-prescription and prescription refills, contact with providers, online payment and billing, and value-driven content.
What type of information can be found on a patient portal?
Patient portals give patients easy access to their medical data, prescriptions, vaccination and doctor visit reports, lab results and tests, scheduled appointments, bills and payment history, as well as diverse content on relevant medical topics.
How to develop a secure patient portal software?
Before gathering functional requirements, study relevant healthcare regulations and laws that apply to patient data management, processing and access in your state. For example, consider GDPR if your patients are EU citizens, HIPAA and HITECH Act in the US, and PIPEDA in Canada. Your findings will impact features and feature prioritization later on.