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Guide to Patient Portal Development for Healthcare Providers

Paul Kovalenko Paul Kovalenko | October 27, 2023 | 14 min

Since the late 90s, big health corporations and small clinics have been developing patient portals to streamline workflows and make healthcare more accessible. Every healthcare provider needs this revolutionary digital asset to offer the best cutting-edge treatments to patients. Notably, the American Medical Association recommends it as a great tool for sorting patients by priority and ensuring urgent cases get more attention.

Unfortunately, after reviewing hundreds of end-user complaints on different patient portals, it’s safe to say that most aren’t hitting the mark for the 21st-century patient. From complicated sign-up processes and confusing interfaces to bad navigation, mobile incompatibility, and blurry walkthrough, the complaints make a long list. And these issues are especially problematic for some older adults who may be technologically unsavvy. 

In this article, we’ll dissect the anatomy of a convenient and informative patient portal system. We’ll dive into why patient portal development matters, the tech stack required, the key features that make it stand out, and how to build one that impresses patients of all ages. Whether you’re a healthcare professional or tech enthusiast, you’ll get a clear picture of the exciting development journey for a patient portal application. Let’s get started! 

What Is a Patient Portal?

A patient portal, also known as a personal health record (PHR), is an online, secure medical record database that gives patients easy, 24/7 access to their personal health data from any device connected to the internet. A typical problem with our healthcare system is a connection gap between patients and doctors. Developing a patient portal will sustain continued patient–physician communication and also promote multidisciplinary illness management.

For instance, patient John Doe, who saw his GP for a headache and got some blood tests done, doesn’t need a second appointment to pick up the results and see his doctor. Instead, the lab results will be sent to his patient portal. The GP can then decide whether there’s nothing to worry about or to refer John to a specialist. This is a win-win for both parties — patients can view their medical details wherever and whenever they want, and doctors can save time for patients higher up in the triage system.

Other key advantages of the patient portal include scheduling non-emergency appointments, requesting referrals, refilling prescriptions, updating insurance information, making payments, completing forms, asking questions via secure messaging, and viewing a patient’s medical history. Patient telemedicine portals are on the rise right now, with many clinics offering online consultations for minor issues.

Worthy mention: Patient portals are secure and compliant with healthcare regulation requirements like HIPAA.

When choosing a patient portal, it’s important to know what types are on the list. Generally, it’s possible to make a patient portal in two forms: a custom patient portal or an integrated service. Let’s take a look at the difference.

Custom Patient Portal

A custom patient portal is a standalone solution that’s not a part of any other system — like an electronic health record (EHR) — that’s already in use by the healthcare provider. Based on user reviews, custom portals are simpler and more user-friendly. This prevents the common challenge of making an all-in-one patient portal with several “help” features that function differently. Even then, customizations and manual integrations with relevant third-party software can also be applied. 

Integrated Patient Portal

True to its name, an integrated patient portal is a one-lasting solution for integrating a patient portal into a pre-existing system, such as an EHR, remote patient monitoring (RPM), telemedicine, and more. This is a healthcare provider’s dream: to only need one screen to handle and automate a truckload of patient-related issues. But, as expected, integrated patient portal development is pricier, more technical, and can quickly become complex and frustrating for the end user.

Patient Portal Solution: Key Features and Top Opportunities

Before you build a patient portal, you must know the key features to expect from the minimum viable product and which will benefit your hospital, private practice, or clients the most. Let’s briefly discuss the top 12 features of patient portal software development.

1. Online Appointment Scheduling

When building your own web patient portal, you must make sure that it allows patients to easily schedule appointments and state their reason for visiting. This convenient feature not only makes it easy to book appointments with the doctor but also to cancel and reschedule them. Allowing patients to handle their appointment scheduling processes will help them set the date and time of their choice and better adhere to routine check-ups and management.

As a healthcare provider, patient portal development saves your receptionist the hassle of long calls and time-consuming back-and-forth scheduling for appointments and management. It also enables your booking calendar to be updated in real time, and canceled slots can easily be reassigned to another patient. This frees up time for other admin tasks.

2. Easy Sign-Up Process

Most patients think the patient portal they use has a difficult sign-up process. So, before going ahead with patient portal software development, you need to determine what the onboarding process will look like. Typically, well-automated portals with clear and simple step-by-step walkthroughs make it easy for patients to guide themselves and sign up. If that’s the case, the adoption rate among patients increases, reducing the need for manual guidance by administrative staff.

Easy sign-up is the rate-limiting step and an opportunity to make a great first impression on your patients’ e-psych. Having a clear onboarding process allows patients to quickly see the real value of the software, promotes a frictionless user experience, and increases patient engagement. There’s also a higher chance of users returning to the patient portal because it hasn’t annoyed them.

3. EHR and Third-Party Integrations

The integration feature can quickly change from a delight to a nightmare if not handled meticulously. Launching a new patient portal with EHR integrations involves consolidating your patients’ health data for real-time access. This feature has many benefits, including better quality care for patients, accurate patient history, increased efficiency, interoperability, scalability, and accessibility.

Also, third-party integrations enable effective reporting. This is key to acquiring valuable clinical and even administrative data that can shine more light on what you’ll need to focus on to improve the service quality in your clinic. This analytical data also improves evidence-based decision-making and patient data management.

4. Security and Privacy

Users will abandon a patient portal that’s insecure and unstable. With secure patient portal software, your practice can reap several benefits. One of them is that users can be sure that your practice is HIPAA-compliant and that their personal data is protected. Patient portal companies compliant with access controls, encryption protocols, and other patient portal standards offer the highest security.

5. Improved UX

Patient portal development that’s user-friendly and optimized to deliver an unforgettable user experience (UX) is non-negotiable. UX includes functional elements and visual design, encompassing your aesthetic feel, navigational ease, and layout. In other words, patients should be able to find what they need on the portal intuitively. 

Your portal should also have features like appointment scheduling, record access, lab results, and messaging. We recommend testing your UX to ensure the features are HIPAA-compliant. Benchmark it against industry standards and competitors in areas like visual UX design, ease of navigation, task completion process, load time, and patient satisfaction. 

Prioritizing UX as a core patient portal feature gives your practice a competitive advantage over industry leaders.

6. Remote patient monitoring

The remote patient monitoring feature tracks certain aspects of a patient’s health from their home. It allows healthcare providers to gather and analyze health data without a face-to-face appointment. While this feature is not new, it’s becoming increasingly popular thanks to its convenience and opportunities for improving patient care. 

Integrating RPM into your patient portal reduces patients’ travel costs and infection risk. It also helps with managing both acute and chronic conditions with blood pressure monitoring cuffs, diabetes internet-connected glucose monitoring, Bluetooth-enabled smart scales for weight loss/weight gain, and respiratory force sensors for COPD, among others.

7. E-forms

Typically, all clinical forms, initial visit forms, and questionnaires can be replicated on the patient portal database, enabling patients to complete them in their own time.

8. Artificial Intelligence

Incorporating AI-enabled chatbots in your patient portal is a huge plus. Doctors and medical practitioners are constantly having to cope with work overload and burnout. Engaging with patients in the portal in between in-person appointments and handling other clinical staff can keep them exceptionally busy.

According to Dr. Christine A. Sinsky, “One of the important causes of physician burnout and in leaving practice is what has become the overwhelming volume of inbox messages.” Dr. Kevin Hopkins adds, “Realistically, responses may take a day or two, but it could take up to three days and might be longer. At the Cleveland Clinic, ours is 72 hours.” This falls short of patient expectations and creates a clear misalignment between patients and doctors.

This is where an AI chatbot can play a key role in patient portals. It delivers prompt, pre-configured, intelligent messages to patients during the wait time, keeps them in the loop, and removes the burden from doctors having to send endless messages. AI possibilities in healthcare are practically limitless.

9. Lab Forms and Results

Before investing time and resources into developing patient portal software, make sure the MVP promises a good UX for lab forms and results. This feature allows patients to view their lab results remotely, reducing the amount of patient calls to the clinic. Good patient portals also ensure that sensitive results are communicated ethically.

For instance, a pathology result confirming that a patient has colon cancer will not be released to the patient on the portal without a doctor’s consultation. Some patient portal software also features graphs and other visual aids to help patients understand their results. It can also show trends and comparisons between a patient’s medical history and recent lab findings. This will allow patients to understand their current health status and the next steps they can take.

10. Prescription Request and Refill

Refilling a prescription is a common reason for a clinic visit. Quality patient portals automate the prescription request and refill process, showcase current and past medications, and highlight dosing and frequency. This encourages patients to stay compliant with their prescription meds. It also informs the doctor on whether to review a patient’s medication, cancel the refill, switch medications, or schedule an appointment for physical examination and testing.

11. Online Payment Feature

Every patient portal app development blueprint must include a medical billing dashboard to make payments convenient and fast. This gives patients an overview of their bills, insurance payouts, and outstanding fees. In a nutshell, the portal allows patients to:

  • Add credit cards or their preferred payment method
  • View and update insurance info
  • Submit and answer billing queries
  • View patient billing history of health payment records

For providers, online payment facilitates swift receipt of payments and ensures adequate cash flow and financial efficiency. 

12. Learning Materials

About 50% of patients leave the doctor’s office without understanding what’s next. Medical jargon, information overload, and other factors result in patients not following their doctor’s advice. This doctor–patient miscommunication can be solved if the patient portal has a learning material feature.

Building a patient portal that offers personalized learning materials on a patient’s health is crucial for effective patient–physician collaboration and better health outcomes. This is especially beneficial for the management of chronic diseases.

Patient Portal App Development: Step-by-Step Guide

If you’re thinking about how to make a patient portal that delights both patients and health practitioners, you’re in the right place. The success of patient portal app development is based on two main factors: the feature set and the resources (team and technology) behind them. Now that we’ve looked at the first element of success, let’s jump right into the second.

Tech stack For a Custom Patient Portal

Here’s the ideal team structure that you need to invest in to build a patient portal app:

  • 3 web developers: 2 frontend and 1 backend
  • 1 Android patient portal developer
  • 1 iOS patient portal developer
  • 2 QA experts
  • 1 project manager

However, you should remember that the bigger the project, the more resources, team members, and time it will require. 

Now that we have looked into the various features required for a patient portal, let’s get down to the step-by-step creation process.

Step 1. Prepare a Plan

Before starting a patient portal software development project, it’s important to look into how feasible it is. Sit down with your chosen software development agency to state your vision, requirements, and pain points. We also recommend looking into your competitors while establishing features that will set you apart.

Don’t just say yes to every suggestion; do extensive research to create a rough sketch of your strategic roadmap, business model, and ROI objectives. This is also the stage where you define your budget and determine whether you want your patient portal to be standalone or integrated. After doing a market and technical analysis of your patient portal app idea, the dev team will proceed with the design stage.

Step 2. Patient Portal Prototype

At Langate, once we’ve validated the patient portal idea, we get to work creating a prototype. First, we compile a list of proposed features, finalize the tech stack, and get our best team on board. Next, we make a prototype that’s very similar to how your dream portal software looks and operates.

Step 3. UI/UX Design

The client reviews the patient portal software prototype, and once they have given the go-ahead, we start the formal design phase. This is a make-or-break stage where we create the wireframes, user stories, and user flows containing designs that will be visible in the final patient portal system. Here, we wear different shoes — patients (including those who are less technologically able), nurses, doctors, front desk, admin — and determine which design fits best.

Visualizing the main functionality of the key user scenarios is also important. For instance, we create a prototype for every single feature, such as e-meeting arrangements and prescription refills. Then, we test with real users, including individuals with variable tech expertise. We also recommend test-running the patient portal on different screens and devices to identify additional design opportunities.

Step 4. Patient Portal Development and Third-Party Integrations

During this consolidation stage, our team of backend and frontend developers work on the platform and app’s solid architecture. We develop the patient portal software with the right features, security elements, and technologies like AI.

Practically speaking, we take this development stage in multiple agile sprints — usually every two weeks for a steady update, quality check, and quick delivery. This also gives us room for tweaks and corrections.

Factors that should remain top of mind during the development process include HIPAA compliance, geo-specific localization, cloud integrations, as well as integrations with existing EHRs, CMSs, and CRMs. There are different ways to go about these integrations, and we discuss what fits best with our clients.

Step 5. QA Testing

At this stage, our quality assurance experts will test the patient portal software across multiple devices and networks to detect any flaws and prepare for deployment. The security protocols are also examined, ensuring that the portal is glitch-free and hack-proof.

Step 6. Release and Maintenance

After confirming the portal is ready to go live, release and upload take place. Our technical team will upload the app version to the iOS App Store and Android Play Store. We recommend testing the final patient portal product under full stress and maximum load. 

Based on real-time use cases, we’ll go back to the drawing board to map out room for improvements, if necessary. The healthcare industry is quite complex, and security regulations keep changing. Therefore, routine functionality upgrades and bug fixes are recommended. This is a surefire tip for making sure your software continues to bring its A-game for the longest time.

Consider Langate as Your Trusted Partner

At Langate, we’ve helped engineer and conceptualize multiple patient portals. Our team of expert healthcare developers knows the ins and outs of the medical compliance regulations needed to breathe life into stellar patient portal software.

We remain a reliable name in the health tech space for our deep understanding of medical ethics and methods for creating a future-forward patient portal. We also know the core challenges patients and medical professionals face while using different solutions. Get ready to own a secure and scalable patient portal built solely for you and your patients.

Again, we don’t joke with data. When the software is ready, we’ll gather honest feedback, deeply analyze user behavior, find bugs and vulnerable points, and give you an efficient portal system. Get in touch with our team of expert health software developers and start your patient portal journey.

Conclusion

Patient portals have been around for a long time, yet most of them still fail to satisfy every patient’s needs. The reason is simple — poor UX and complex integrations that are almost impossible to navigate. However, with the right partner, you can develop custom patient portal software that patients will actually love to use. When done right, a patient portal can help you ensure patients are involved in their treatment and also improve your workflow.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is a patient portal system?

A patient portal system is a secure online platform that gives patients 24/7 access to their medical history and other health information. It also facilitates interactions with healthcare providers and organizations.

Can I build a custom web patient portal?

Yes, creating a patient portal is recommended for health brands, including clinics and private practices. However, you require a dedicated team of developers with strong coding knowledge to get your portal off the ground and stay compliant with the latest regulations.

How much does it cost to build a patient portal?

There’s no fixed price to build custom patient portal software. Depending on the tech stack, features, and the number of platforms, a patient portal can cost anywhere between $50,000 and $100,000 or even exceed this sum.

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