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Getting Patient Portals Right: It Takes A Village

Getting Patient Portals Right: It Takes a Village

It’s no secret that patient portals aren’t perfect. Too many are not easy to use, and contain missing or out-of-date information. Even when data is available, patients may not know how to interpret it – is my cholesterol level high or low? Why am I taking this medication again? Health care providers have also struggled; it has been difficult to convey the value of patient portals and get patients to sign up and use these digital platforms.

As part of GetMyHealthData’s work in New York  to identify and share new approaches to making health information accessible and actionable for patients and families, we learned about NewYork-Presbyterian’s (NYP) patient portal Help Desk. NYP is a health system in New York City, and its myNYP portal dates back to 2009.

The Help Desk evolved when NYP saw that achieving the full potential of the portal required more than great software: It required real-life support for people using the portal. As Help Desk project leader Juana Romero explained,

“We have awesome, brilliant minds in IT creating great software, but you need to have people with direct patient contact for that human element; someone who can hear the voice of the patient.”

In the early years, Ms. Romero was the primary support person, taking her laptop on vacation to answer patient questions and troubleshoot problems. Now, NYP has a full-fledged patient-facing Help Desk staffed by a team whose job it is to help patients with an array of problems and questions.

The team view these queries as a positive sign of patient engagement, the ultimate goal of patient-facing technologies. As Ms. Romero said,

“I love it when I get questions [about errors in the portal] because it tells me that patients are reading the details of their chart … it’s a win.”

NYP’s Help Desk illustrates the importance of approaching the patient portal from a patient experience perspective, rather than simply an IT issue. The Help Desk history offers valuable insights for other providers trying to get the most out of their patient portals, whether that means dedicating resources to Help Desk services, or reflecting on the most common patient questions in order to develop better outreach and education materials. Check out the full story of NYP’s Help Desk and lessons learned here.

At GetMyHealthData, we’re excited to find and share health information Bright Spots like this. If you have an innovative solution to share, or want to discuss patient-centered health data practices, email [email protected].

Happy #NHITWeek!

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