Getting Patients to Use the Patient Portal

The advent of MACRA and MIPS means provider’s Medicare reimbursement hinges more than ever on the Patient Portal.  How can you get your patients to use it?

In our last Blog we covered how a large chunk of the Medicare payment adjustment (+ or -) providers will receive in 2019 will be based on use of a Patient Portal in 2017.

If you’re struggling to get your patients to use the portal you’re not alone.  But there are ways to dramatically improve patient’s use of the portal – and benefit your practice in the long run.  Some ideas from our practices:

  • Get the patient portal set-up and get trained on using it!  Sounds like common sense but if you didn’t get your portal set up initially with your vendor you may need to ask.
  • Review all of the features available with your vendor.  Maybe enhancements have been made since you set up the EHR that you are not aware of.

Note that the suggestions below rely on the ability of your EHR’s Patient Portal to perform these functions and not all Patient Portals may be able to do so.

  • Provide a tablet or kiosk in your waiting room and when you sign up a patient in the portal walk them through using it and have them use it immediately.
  • Use the patient portal to capture medical, surgical, family and social history from your patients.  If they haven’t completed it before arrival provide the tablet or kiosk and ask them to complete in the waiting room.
  • When you register patients for the portal provide a one-page information sheet on the benefits and how to use it.  Include their User ID and initial temporary password.
  • Enable automatic emailing or texting a link to the portal to the patient anytime their chart has been updated.
  • Put a link to your patient portal on your website.
    • Create a short video on using the portal and include it on your website and a link on the portal registration information provided to patients.
  • Ask patients to use the portal to request appointments and medication refills.
    • Prioritize these ABOVE phone call requests (except duly needed urgent requests)
    • Remind them that this will enable them to message your office after hours and such requests will be addressed ASAP the next business day.
  • Mention the portal link and your website address in your “on hold’ phone message and to patients leaving phone messages for appointments and medication refills.
  • Provide enhanced services via the portal such as requests for lab results and medical records at a reduced or $0 fee.
  • Provide authorized family members with access – this is especially important with pediatrics and geriatrics.
  • Use the portal to send general reminders (office closed, flu shots)
  • Use the portal to send patient specific reminders (due for an appointment, immunization, etc).  If the portal updates/messages are linked to the patient’s email or text account they will receive a timely message.

What about specialists?

Specialists often see the portal as something only pertinent to Primary Care.  However, they are judged by the same rules so need to find a way to make the portal work in their environment as well.  

The above suggestions will work for specialists as well as Primary Care.  Also, remember your patients only need to use the portal for the period of time you are seeing them.  Lastly, most patients seeing a specialist have fairly serious medical conditions.  As such, they actually may be more interested in receiving information about their condition from their specialist than from their primary care provider!


The most important key to patient engagement via the Patient Portal are to make it as easy as possible (while still secure) for patients to access the portal.  Frequent (but not annoying) and pertinent (specific to them) communication via the portal will get and keep them using it!