Patient Portals Can Produce Real Savings

March 31, 2011
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Just ask this Arizona orthopedic clinic

The Orthopedic Clinic Association, a five-location orthopedic and physical therapy practice, instituted a patient portal in February 2010 to reap some quantifiable and not-so-quantifiable rewards.

After reviewing daily surveys the practice administers to patients, two main complaints kept popping up: long wait times in the waiting room and long wait times over the phone system. To alleviate these issues, the practice implemented a portal from the Mountain View, Calif.-based Intuit where patients can now request appointments, refills, and pay bills online.

Michael Hughner, front office manager, shared with me some ‘winning’ stats from his practice:
• 9,250 patients out of 10,100, or 92 percent, who receive welcome email did initial paperwork online
• 17,268 forms filled out online in a year
• $11,300 saved in new patient paperwork in one year
• 842 patients asked for new patient appointments online

In addition to paper savings, Hughner says patient complaints have dramatically decreased, as wait times have been minimized, since many patients forego filling out the paperwork in the waiting room.

In the future, the practice will implement secure messaging, so patients can communicate with their physician online. With the addition of patient emails, Hughner does admit physicians “worry a little bit about the additional time” involved with patient correspondence. But he adds that each physician in the practice has a physician’s assistant and a clinical assistant that generally can answer most patient queries.

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