Our world is increasingly digital. There is little left in our lives that is not tracked through a computer, an app, or some digital device. This revolution has greatly benefitted patients as health systems are able to better engage them through multiple fronts including online patient portals, text-based appointment reminders, electronic appointment check-in, telehealth visits, etc. Technology is not always seamless. There can be system glitches, input errors, and of course, user errors, making portal support imperative. While all hospital systems have recognized the need for this support, whether internally or through an external provider, not everyone has adopted around-the-clock support, which is a major misstep.

Being digital means being 24/7

Around-the-clock support is just part of operating in a digital world. We can all access our email at any time of day, any day of the week. We can pull up a website or send an inquiry whether it’s 2 p.m. or 2 a.m. Providing support that corresponds with a world that’s always on is just part of operating in it, but too many health systems have not recognized this obligation.

Perhaps a patient wants to pull up important test results after arriving home late or is traveling in a different time zone when they need to access the portal. Patients love the after-hours convenience portals provide, but if they encounter issues and don’t have support, it might as well not exist. Patient satisfaction is contingent upon your ability to provide adequate support for this helpful tool.

Patient needs don’t correspond with operating hours

Patients often have a choice when selecting a health system, so patient satisfaction is vital to patient retention. After all, without patients, hospitals would cease to exist. So, helping patients when and how they need is a necessary part of operations.

It is also important to remember that patient support is not the same as customer support. An issue with an order or a return can wait. Help with a health issue often can’t.  Certainly, a medical emergency should not be addressed through the portal, but perhaps a patient is trying to access their chart to confirm the name of a medication. Maybe a patient wants to confirm their current stats to determine the proper dosage. Contacting the on-call provider for that information is inconvenient, awkward, and wastes valuable resources. Having someone available to help with a portal issue is an easy solution.

Opting for a known cost over the unexpected

Keeping existing patients from going to the competition by offering a better overall experience is a goal for many health systems. Most organizations can easily justify the cost of providing 24×7 patient portal when included as part of the overall strategy to retain existing patients. You can shop around for a service provider that fits your budget and staffing needs. Or even expand your current service desk to accommodate 24×7 patient portal support.

While we can all recognize that adapting to changing technologies isn’t always easy and typically has a learning curve, no one wants to be considered a dinosaur, especially in healthcare. The fact is that a digital healthcare environment requires 24/7 support. So, if you haven’t already, it’s time to make the change.