Healthcare News & Insights

Encourage Baby Boomers to use patient portals: Here’s how

As people live longer and have better access to health care, your patient population will continue to grow older. With that aging patient mix comes a range of new obstacles your hospital will need to overcome to keep providing quality patient care. 

One of those roadblocks: Getting older patients to use new technology, such as patient portals, to optimize their care.

Your health system likely has a patient portal where providers and patients can communicate about care, but it’s only a useful tool if patients are using it consistently. And older patients usually aren’t.

According to the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging, half of Baby Boomers ages 50 to 80 don’t use their provider’s security patient communication site. Generally, male patients and low-income patients are less likely to use patient portals.

There are a few reasons older adults aren’t fans of online patient portals:

  • They don’t like communicating about their health via computers.
  • They don’t have a need for a portal.
  • They didn’t know they needed to set something up.
  • They haven’t gotten around to setting up their account.
  • They aren’t comfortable with technology.

Many patients are also concerned about the time element and worry their question won’t be answered as quickly through the portal compared to calling the office.

Portal education

Luckily, many of these problems have a simple fix: patient education.

Explain to patients how your hospital’s portal works and what they need to do to use it. These explanations could come in the form of literature or handouts, or encouraging providers to let patients know how they can access portals at home.

Making the uses and benefits of a portal clear to patients is another way to get them online. Telling them they can use the portal to view test results, request prescription refills, schedule an appointment, request appointment reminders or talk to a nurse or other professional about a health concern can serve as a significant encouragement.

You can also ask what their specific hesitations are and address them as they come.

For example, when talking to patients who worry it’ll take too long for their questions to be answered, clinical staff can explain that there’s no guarantee of getting a faster answer by calling, since staff members may not have time for a lengthy phone call. But if the question’s asked online, providers can more easily go into more detail, if needed, or dash off a quick line if it’s an easy problem to solve.

Patients of all ages are always looking for ways to better manage their health, and portals are a key tool that can help – as long as patients know they exist and are taught how to use them.

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