Patient Portal Adoption: Creating Patient-Friendly Experiences

patient portal adoption

In 2017, a Student Health Technology Information study found that the mean adoption rate for patient portals was 52%. 

While patient portals are game changers for improved access to healthcare records, better care, and self-service experiences, healthcare organizations cannot achieve these benefits when patients cannot realize the benefits of these portals.  

Still, patients overwhelmingly prefer patient portals, with 92% of US residents saying that quick and easy access to their electronic healthcare records is important to them. 67% of Millennials said they wouldn’t consider a physician or provider if they didn’t have an online portal.

In this article, we’ll discuss common barriers to patient portal adoption success, and what healthcare providers and hospital networks can do to enable their patients with frictionless patient portal technology experiences and drive healthcare transformation.

Barriers to Patient Portal Adoption

With the many benefits of patient portals, what stands in the way of adoption? Here are four main reason why patients have struggled to adopt healthcare portal technologies.

1. Access to technology

One hurdle to patient portal adoption is the lack of access to technology for certain populations. The digital divide narrows every year. However, marginalized groups still face barriers to accessing devices or reliable internet.

Research shows individuals from low-income households or marginalized communities are more affected by healthcare access gaps. This widens the gap in access to care. To overcome this, providers must address infrastructure limitations and socioeconomic disparities. Prioritizing inclusivity in portal design is critical. That way, you can ensure all patients can engage.

2. Preference for in-person communication

Some patients strongly prefer traditional interactions with providers over digital communication channels. They may see patient portals as impersonal substitutes. Don’t position portals as replacing in-person care. Instead, they complement it. 

Integrate the portal into routine processes. Help patients understand how digital channels enhance traditional interactions. Consider offering alternatives like telemedicine. This way, people can experience a relationship between technology and a human-centric approach to care.

3. Resistance to change

People often resist changes to familiar practices. This resistance is a barrier to patient portal adoption, especially if your patients are already uncomfortable using technology.  To overcome this, prioritize patient education. You can do this by showing off the advantages portals offer. Things like convenience and transparency.

Take the opportunity to frame it as an empowering choice. Also, focus on opportunities for continuous improvement. Ask for feedback from your patients. This can build trust with people who are reluctant to use the portal.

4. Provider UX issues

Provider issues also impact patient portal adoption. For example, choosing to overhaul the user interface without clear communication is a problem. Patients may end up confused and less willing to engage. Prioritize consistency and transparency in your portal strategy. 

Patient portals require dedicated attention to UX, through ongoing strategies on analyzing patient behavior in the portal, identifying areas of friction, and creating in-app experiences to create frictionless workflows.

Invest in ongoing staff training too. Knowledgeable and supportive providers make all the difference. They can help guide patients through the patient portal onboarding process and overcome support issues. This way, everyone in your practice will be more comfortable with the technology.

6 Ways to Drive Patient Portal Adoption

Spending on healthcare transformation surpassed $1.3 trillion worldwide and is growing at 10.4% year-over-year. This transformation is a big investment for any healthcare organization, and patient portals are just one piece of the digital puzzle. 

How do healthcare organizations drive patient portal adoption and realize value for this investment? Here are six ways to enable patients to adopt their online portals.

1. Highlight the benefits of patient portals

Educating users about the advantages of patient portals is essential. It promotes adoption and encourages ongoing engagement. Have a one-on-one discussion with your patients post-visit to let them know the benefits of using their new patient portal. Send them home with educational pamphlets with more details on the new portal.

Use in-app tooltips and interactive walkthroughs to emphasize benefits like how to access health records, how to schedule an appointment, how to request a prescription refill, and more. This motives users to participate in their care through the portal actively, and helps providers highlight its usefulness with in-app guidance.

2. Provide in-app guided patient portal onboarding

Enable your patients from the first time they log in to your portal with in-app guided onboarding. Guided in-app onboarding allows you to take patients on a tour of the new system, showcase its benefits, familiarize them with its core functionalities, and help them realize value of the portal quickly.

Your patient portal in-app onboarding should include:

  • Guided product tours that welcome new users with a pop-up experience that guides users through your portal’s UI to highlight important features and areas of the portal, explain UI elements, and help them to set up their account.
  • Tooltips to provide additional explanation on any fields or elements in your patient portal that patients may struggle to understand.
  • Interactive walkthroughs that take patients step-by-step through different portal capabilities and processes.
  • New user onboarding checklists that provide a list of first-time actions new patients should accomplish when using the portal for the first time.

With Whatfix’s digital adoption platform (DAP), enable your patients with contextual in-app guidance and moment-of-need support directly in your patient portal. With Whatfix’s no-code content creator, non-technical team members can create in-app experiences that engage patients and assist them at the moment of need.


With Whatfix, create:

  • Tours and Task Lists to contextually onboard new patients with guided experiences.
  • Flows that take patients step-by-step through patient portal processes and important tasks and help drive the adoption of complex, multi-step workflows through in-app training.
  • Smart Tips that provide additional support and relevant information at the moment of need.
  • Pop-Ups to make provider announcements, remind patients of upcoming appointments, alert patients of important medical news, and more.
  • In-app Surveys to capture feedback from your patient portal users.

3. Enable contextual in-app patient support

As all users, from staff to patients, become comfortable with your portal, they’ll still need help. You must be able to support them when and where they need it most – ie. where they’re experiencing friction in your patient portal.

Providers should invest in an online knowledge base that provides patients access to FAQs and other help articles on using the portal. Additionally, have a tier of IT support for more pressing, critical patient support issues.

Providers should also enable patients with in-app support to help patients overcome issues directly inside their portal. With Whatfix’s DAP, enable your patients with Self Help.

Self Help is an in-app resource center that integrates with your patient support resources, like your help desk, FAQs, knowledge base articles, and more – creating a searchable help center right inside your patient portal. Each support entry can include an overview of how to resolve the issue, an embedded video, a link to the provider’s website or third-party link, or can trigger an in-app guided Flow to walk users through the trouble area.


4. Use end-user behavior analytics

Digital adoption analytics provide visibility into where users experience friction across technology experiences, including your patient portal. The behavioral data you gain reveals actual usage patterns. This can help you figure out where users need more support.

With Whatfix Guidance Analytics, understand how patients engage and consume your in-app content, like how many patients completed their new user onboarding Task List, how many patients engaged with a Pop-Up, or what the most common Self Help search queries were in a given month.

Whatfix Product Analytics takes it a step further, providing a custom user event tracking solution to analyze end-user behavior. This empowers healthcare IT teams to identify areas of end-user friction, map optimal user flows, build flows for different user cohorts, and more. 

Use this data to create new in-app guidance and end-user support content and continuously optimize and test new workflows and features to create more efficient, user-friendly technology experiences that drive value.

5. Alert patients to portal changes and critical information

Technology is innovative by nature. New features and compliance updates lead to frequent change. Use in-app communication and notification capabilities to broadcast these changes seamlessly. With a DAP like Whatfix, create in-app pop-ups and notifications to broadcast updates, announce new features, and trigger relevant guidance.

6. Collect patient feedback with in-app surveys

Patient feedback is valuable for understanding adoption barriers and uncovering usability issues. This feedback can also help you come up with ideas for experience optimization. With Whatfix, create in-app surveys to gather both client and employee feedback.

Patient Portal Clicks Better With Whatfix

Accelerate your healthcare digital transformation by enabling your employees and customers with contextual in-app guidance and real-time support with Whatfix’s digital adoption platform (DAP)

Whatfix enables healthcare providers with its no-code Visual Editor to create in-app, moment-of-need support and contextual guidance – all contextual to different end-users, from nurses, doctors, admins, and patients. This reduces time-to-proficiency and achieves new levels of productivity and proficiency through better patient portal adoption. It also provides patients with self-service, personalized, and guided user experiences.

Whatfix empowers a data-driven approach by analyzing healthcare and patient experiences with end-user behavioral analytics and event tracking. This identifies areas of friction in your digital processes and tech experiences, allowing you to create optimal, contextual user journeys across various end-user segments. Use Whatfix’s Visual Editor to overcome these friction areas with additional in-app guidance, nudges, queues, and support.

How does it work? Whatfix empowers healthcare organizations to:

  • Create in-app Flows and Task Lists that guide patients, nurses, doctors, and staff step-by-step through digital processes and applications.
  • Enable patients and healthcare staff with Self Help, providing a searchable help wiki that connects to all your help and support documentation, FAQs, help desk articles, and more – that overlays on your digital UI.
  • Notifypatients and healthcare staff  of application process updates, compliance changes, company announcements, and more with Pop-Ups and Beacons.
  • Provide contextual Smart Tips that enable end-users with timely information that nudges the to take the correct in-app action.
  • Use Field Validation to ensure data is entered in full, in the correct format.
  • Collect end-user feedback such as NPS, training and onboarding feedback, and bug identification with In-App Surveys.
  • Analyze end-user behavior with User Actions and Enterprise Insights by tracking custom in-app events to optimize user journeys, segment users into cohorts, identify areas of friction, and more.

With Whatfix, you can understand how healthcare technology like patient portals, EHRs, or patient management systems are being used, what is being underused, and more to create frictionless healthcare experiences. All to empower patients and providers to reach new levels of success with digital tools. 

What Is Whatfix?
Whatfix is a digital adoption platform that provides organizations with a no-code editor to create in-app guidance on any application that looks 100% native. With Whatfix, create interactive walkthroughs, product tours, task lists, smart tips, field validation, self-help wikis, hotspots, and more. Understand how users are engaging with your applications with advanced product analytics.
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Software Clicks With Whatfix
Whatfix's digital adoption platform empowers your employees, customers, and end-users with in-app guidance, reinforcement learning, and contextual self-help support to find maximum value from software.

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