How Patient Portal is “10,000% valuable” during and post-COVID
As this new normal sets in for the foreseeable future, most practices are trying to figure out how to maximize their production without sacrificing their care. It’s a problem that Practice Management Consultant Bianca Dornan from Practices Made Perfect has noticed, and thought a lot about.
Working with practices across several provinces to build efficient offices, she’s seen firsthand how managing pandemic risk is impacting the bottom line. Witnessing hygienists cut out 10 minutes of appointment time to collect info, she’s able to attest to the confusion and frustration as administrators attempt to shoehorn old solutions into new realities. In her eyes, the top of mind concerns for every practice has been how to handle necessary patient information, when you don’t want that patient to be around longer than necessary. For Bianca, Patient Portal has been the perfect fit for dental practices big and small.
With so many practices working with a hybrid solution of paper and digital, the reliability of transferring information from a file to a database has been another thorn in the side of office managers and receptionists. “If the patient responds by email, and the receptionist is looking for something related, but the doc doesn’t get uploaded – then it’s time wasted.”
In Bianca’s eyes, all practices struggling with these logistics are typically seen as two types of practices:
- Practices still reliant on paper, forced to scan screening and consent forms, only to wait for patients to print, sign, scan, and send them back.
- The offices that went digital but became reliant on passing devices out to patients in the waiting room.
For the first group, the benefits are clear cut. With overhead costs directly tied to storage size, and the sometimes-enormous-lag between a request to fill out a doc, and receiving it properly filled out. Bianca still thinks there are some hidden benefits that most practices might gloss over. By bringing all records under a secure, easily-accessible digital chart, both the front and back–office staff are able to access and verify documents and histories as quickly and easily as patients can.
“Before COVID, the biggest challenge was new patients and patient consults. Changing the time commitment for big updates or changes to medical history means taking the bottleneck out of the front desk.”
For the second group, the appeal of spending less time in the waiting room is certain to provoke some interest, but the hidden costs of kiosks that Bianca Dornan sees as a result of COVID can’t be ignored. Thousands of dental practices moved to tablets as a way to cut down on paper and speed up how patient records are added to a practice’s database. Those tablets aren’t getting people out of the waiting room any faster, and they’ve become their own hidden challenge, “As soon as you hand it to a patient, you then need to take the time to wipe it down. Over time, it’s going to affect that tablet. Those chemicals are harsh, and if this COVID screening goes on for another two years, you’re going to be replacing a lot of tablets.”
The appeal for small and medium–sized practices alike is still very obvious to Bianca, and she believes Patient Portal will be “10,000% valuable”, even after the pandemic has ended. She explains how Patient Portal has promoted and enhanced open communication with patients despite the challenges of social distancing. Allowing for a smooth transition when getting them onboard, as well as greater planning and time management capabilities for both, patients and staff. Being able to bring informed consent, proposals, patient histories, and all the other relevant information into one place has helped practices, but she also notices the decline in payment disputes.
From the moment a course of treatment is offered or recommended, the associated costs are readily available to the patient at any time. Rather than handing over an easily lost piece of paper, or providing a verbal estimate on price, the finalized cost is added as a document to that patient’s accessible files. Taking out the equation of what a patient thought they heard or saw, you leave a record that removes disputes over care costs. Tied together with treatment plans that can be agreed to with a digital signature and automatically imported back into documents, Patient Portal extends well beyond our COVID-focused minds.