Oto Med has experienced a steady rise in the number of patients accessing their patient portal since beginning their push in September 2018.
As part of the practice's journey to Cornerstone accreditation, the team at Oto Med has made a sustained effort to promote the portal and activate accounts for as many patients as they can.
And they're starting to see a difference as a result of it.
The key to their success so far? GP champions, key nursing and reception staff dedicated-to-the-cause who've really run with it, and a positive attitude.
"We generally activate the accounts for patients while they're standing at reception - this does take a few minutes but is worth it because it's easier for the patients," says Heather, Oto Med receptionist. "We stress to patients that because they've already been activated, they simply need to log in to access it."
Dr Jo Ann Francisco, one of the biggest portal champions in the practice, is already seeing a difference in the way she works with patients. And reception is noticing an increase in the number of online bookings coming through.
"Accessibility and efficiency are important in general practice and the portal is great for both," says Jo Ann. "It bypasses the middleman, so to speak, by giving the patients access to their GP right away and giving them the ability to communicate directly with us if they have questions or concerns about results, medicines, or more. I can inform patients of subsequent treatment plans without having to see them for a follow up, which saves their time as well as opens more appointments for people who need to be seen," she says.
"Patients like to have a record of their results - having access to this puts them at ease. If results need a more in-depth explanation or are sensitive and serious, they are asked to come in for a face to face discussion. I can communicate with patients in a more timely and efficient way. In the past, we'd often play phone-tag, which is not an efficient use of anyone's time."
Heather has noticed an increase in people booking appointments online, "and they know they can book appointments for their children by making a comment in the booking to let us know," she adds. "We tell people they'll still need to call if they need an appointment longer than 15 minutes, and also that as soon as their doctor has seen their results, they're available to view too."
Patients at Oto Med are hearing the same portal messaging from a number of different channels - GPs, nurses, reception. It's coming from all angles and each voice backs up the others. And staff with patient portals of their own are much more confident to discuss portals with patients.
"We have information promoting the portal - right down to what the app looks like in the app store - on a wall patients walk past to attend their appointments. It's also promoted on our waiting room TV, doctors and nurses talk about it with their patients, and here at reception we sign people up and unless we're particularly busy we usually activate them too."
Suz, Oto Med nurse notes "I often have more time to talk to patients, so it makes sense for me to discuss the portal with them. I'll ask if they know about it and if they know how to sign up. So if I'm not too busy, it's always worth it."
Suz also supports patients to use the portal from a practical point of view. "A lot of our younger patients will download the app while they're sitting there with me, so I suggest they flick me through a test email and we talk about it's uses."
Having a couple of GPs championing the portal is making a significant difference for the practice.
"I usually end my routine patient encounters by asking them if they have an email address and if they use it often. If they say yes, then I ask them if they have heard about the portal. I talk to them about the features and encourage them to sign up for it. If they say no, I give them information about it and ask them to think about it," says Jo Ann.
For those who are keen, Jo Ann communicates this to reception by flagging on their encounter slip the patient is interested to use the portal. "I think patients particularly like the idea of having access to their GP," says Jo Ann. "By suggesting this as a benefit of the portal, they're often quick to get on board. Patients often tell me they like the ability to communicate with me directly."