Hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, private practitioners, pharmacies, and many other healthcare providers regularly need access to a patient’s medical records, their prescription history, billing & payment records, and need to book appointments for them. This is a common requirement whether the services are in the public domain or are provided by a private healthcare provider.
Having an integrated online, cloud-based system that can address all these issues and many more can only be well-received by the healthcare providers and their patients. With the governments also pushing for digitization of medical records and patients demanding portability, a digital online solution is the best way forward.
An integrated, online, cloud-based patient portal with a corresponding mobile app and backend software can be the solution that you are looking for. This will be a system that will have multiple categories of users accessing it for their specific needs:
- Doctors to check their appointments and access medical records.
- Administrators to review the utilization of resources and billing info.
- Pharmacies to check prescription requests from the patients.
- Lab technicians upload the test results.
- Patients to see their diagnostic reports, payment details, and overall healthcare facilities available to them.
Online patient portals help improve the quality of healthcare offered to patients by bridging the gap between their providers and themselves. These portals allow the patients to access their medical history and records from anywhere and share them with any healthcare provider seamlessly.
Almost all the big hospital chains are leveraging the benefits of an integrated patient portal for sharing health-related information seamlessly across their vast networks. Not only the hospitals and doctors, but many patients have also started to access and take advantage of the facilities provided by patient portals – such as HIPAA compliant telemedicine app, appointment booking, pharmacy orders, and ordering sample collection from home.
This guide will help you understand what patient portals are, how they benefit all the stakeholders, and your best options to get your patient portal up and run.
What Are Patient Portals?
Table of Content
- 1 What Are Patient Portals?
- 2 Types of Patient Portals
- 3 Global Market Size and Trends of Healthcare Industry
- 4 Most significant benefits of patient portals
- 5 Top Features of a Comprehensive Patient Portal
- 6 Essential Features of Patient Portal Software
- 7 Ancillary Features of Patient Portal App
- 8 How to Develop an Online Patient Portal?
- 9 Required Team structure for Patient Portal Software Development
- 10 What are the costs involved in patient portal development?
- 11 Let’s Develop Patient Portals for the New Normal with Arka Softwares
- 12 Let the Ideas Roll!
- A patient portal is a collection of a fully functional website, mobile app, and a robust backend supporting the two front-end platforms. It is a centralized system of record-keeping, transaction processing & management, offering numerous services to the stakeholders who are either patients or involved in their healthcare.
- Maintenance of electronic health records (EHR) is at the core of the patient portal around which all other services and functionalities are built. The HER includes the clinical observations of the doctors, line of treatment suggested and administered, medicines prescribed and dispensed, lab tests ordered, conducted and their reports, and billing, insurance, and payments information.
- Different stakeholders have access to different sections of the centralized patient records, according to their needs and authorization levels. The portal and complete system must be secure to prevent data corruption or unauthorized access to ensure patients’ privacy. It must be efficient to handle simultaneous access to heavy data from different channels and locations.
- Therefore, a patient healthcare portal allows access to diversified patient medical data without the boundaries of space, time, and medium of access.
- A Patient Portal is an effective tool in the hands of healthcare providers – doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, insurance companies, and so on – to provide seamless and holistic medical care facilities to their patients. It is a marvel of technology that combines many of the latest technologies like cloud-based SaaS applications, IoT apps, mobile apps, and an efficient backend system to meet the challenges of such a complex system.
- The patient portal enables your patients to access their healthcare records, from anywhere and at any time, to keep themselves updated, get second expert opinions, and better manage their health and related expenses. In addition to providing 24×7 online access to the patients, an effective portal would also enable the healthcare providers to quickly access lab results, radiology scans, and medical history seamlessly.
- A patient portal allows for better physician-patient communication, building trust among them and giving the patients more control over their course of treatment. Your patient portal can also help patients by booking appointments, offering telemedicine services, access their bills & make payments, and file for insurance claims directly through the system.
- Additionally, the patient portal can help administrators better plan schedules of their doctors and lab staff, increase patient engagement, launch, and promote comprehensive family healthcare package programs, and streamlining workflows in the institution.
Types of Patient Portals
Patient portals have seen development in two major categories:
Independent portals are catering to multiple healthcare providers by bringing them on a single platform. An independent portal can bring together many clinics, hospitals, pharmacies, and diagnostic labs under an umbrella within a limited geographical area to begin with.
As the trust of the patients and providers builds up, it can gradually expand to cover more cities and states to expand its reach pan-nation.
In-house Portals of Chains:
An incorporated system that caters to the unique needs of a large hospital chain or healthcare provider with a vast number of outlets. Many large hospital groups, pharmaceutical chains, and diagnostic labs with many facilities across the state or the country.
With an integrated and customized patient portal, they can bring standardization to patient care and offer world-class services to their patients in every location.
Global Market Size and Trends of Healthcare Industry
- A Grand View Research reports states that the global patient portal market value was USD 1.9 billion in 2018, with projections of a CAGR of 17.6% growth rate over the next decade.
- According to Verified Market Research, reports the Global Patient Portal Market in 2019 was valued at $2.27 billion and is poised to reach $7.70 billion by 2027. It is a projected growth of 17.8% CAGR.
- KBV Research, in its report on the Global Patient Portal Market, estimates that the market size is expected to reach $5.6 billion by 2025, again rising at a CAGR of 17.2% during the forecast period.
- Therefore, even if you are not a healthcare provider directly, you can still bring positive changes to the lives of patients and their families by building an online, integrated, comprehensive, and centralized patient portal to bring together the healthcare industry and offer options to the patients.
- So, if your next big idea is to help people get better and lead healthy lives, then developing and marketing an online patient portal is your best bet. More importantly, governments around the world are looking for and tendering for established systems in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to bring their facilities online as fast as possible. This opens up another large and lucrative government contract market at municipal, city, provincial, and national levels.
Most significant benefits of patient portals
With more and more adoption of technology and patients and doctors getting exposed to varied options, they realize the benefits of adopting an integrated patient portal system.
Whether you log on to an in-house portal or an independent portal, the effectiveness and efficiencies are all apparent. Patients get easy and secure access to their electronic healthcare records, doctors get alerts for their scheduled appointments, lab results are available online in no time, and billing and payments become more streamlined.
The fast adoption of such portals is due to the immense benefits that these portals offer. Here we provide a comprehensive list of such services for your consideration.
Better Physician-Patient Relationships:
Patient Portals offer a level of communication that was not possible before. Patients don’t have to wait to see their doctors in person to access their medical records and the line of treatment. The doctors can get a better and more comprehensive medical history with the help of questionnaires filled out by the patients.
Patients can also post queries for their physicians at any time, and the doctor can respond to them whenever they are free to look at them. This prevents unnecessary clinical visits and overcrowding of healthcare facilities.
The patients can also schedule their admissions, check-in, and check-out using the portal after making payments for all dues. This frees up the administrative staff to give more attention to pressing matters.
Improve Clinical Outcomes:
The accompanying mobile app can alert the patients about many things – taking their medicines on time, scheduling appointments with their doctor, making appointments with diagnostic lab for tests, alerting pharmacies for the refill of medicines, and much more.
This results in adherence to what the doctor prescribes and helps increase the treatment’s commitment and improve clinical outcomes for a more significant number of patients.
Doctors also get a better picture of the vital statistics maintained by the patients on the portal – such as blood pressure & sugar levels, temperature, urine output, food intake, and changes in symptoms over a period. This helps in better diagnosis and targeted treatment, resulting in better outcomes for the doctors.
Optimize Clinical Workflows:
Hospitals and clinics have many tasks that can be digitized, and the staff engaged in them can be freed up for more emergent work. Many of these tasks, when automated, can help you improve the workflow and better utilization of the manpower.
Some of these tasks that are prime candidates of digitization are:
- Appointments booking.
- Pre-admission form filling.
- Billing and payment.
- Scheduling doctor visits and lab rounds.
- Uploading of digital medical records.
- Insurance claim filing and processing.
- Sharing of medical records between internal and external experts for consultancy.
- Getting a second opinion using telemedicine services.
- Patient vitals monitoring from a remote location.
Once many of these tasks are automated, the nursing staff, doctors, pharmacists, and lab technicians can devote more time to actual patient care than completing their paperwork.
The administration of a hospital is a very extensive and thorough job. It requires necessary supplies, vendors, contractors, cleaning crews, medical waste disposal, staffing, billing and payments, and maintenance to be taken care of while supporting the healthcare staff the necessary support.
With an efficient patient portal for your practice, the office staff’s efficiency can increase many times over, and it will help you see more patients than ever before. There will be fewer errors and lesser mix-ups in appointments and medical records keeping the operations efficient.
Greater Focus on Patient Care:
The ultimate aim of any healthcare facility is to provide their clients, i.e., the patients the best medical attention and care possible. Medical care requires accurate, timely, and complete information to be available to the doctors at all times.
The online medical data of patients’ complete records alleviates one of the biggest concerns of the doctors – maintaining paperwork that they may not access in time. As all charts, reports, treatments, and medical history are available at a tap, the main focus of the doctor is now on delivering excellent patient care.
The billing and insurance departments can also automatically raise bills, file for insurance claims, and get necessary approvals, and making online payments for the services.
The patient portal allows pre-filling of registration and admission forms by the patient or their family members. This pre-filling of the forms ahead of check-in results in incorrect information and avoiding spelling mistakes, as well as immediate treatment on arrival.
Supports Rapid Growth:
With many hospitals and healthcare facilities witnessing rapid growth, adding new departments and specialists to their team, they need a centralized repository of all patient records. To deliver effective and patient-centric care, healthcare providers need to invest in the development of robust patient portals.
Patients are also more likely to revisit you and refer you, with the superb level of service they receive, adding to your rapid growth.
Support for Telemedicine:
One of the biggest roadblocks in the fast and broader adoption of telemedicine practices is the unavailability of patient records for perusal by remote experts. A centralized patient portal can provide seamless access to medical records, lab reports, radiological scans, and medical history at a single click to the remote expert.
This will be the biggest breakthrough in telemedicine since the availability of video calling services. The expert can write you an electronic prescription and order for diagnostic tests conducted locally, and their reports are transmitted to them immediately and directly.
Reduced Medical Errors:
One of the biggest sources of medical care errors is incomplete, erroneous, and inaccurate records. Many times, incomprehensible handwriting or misplaced records also add to the problem. Sometimes as doctors do not have access to complete information, they have to make decisions spur of the moment based on their intuitions and hunches. Sometimes, such suspicions work, and many times they may result in adverse events.
Errors and lapses inpatient care can be reduced significantly because all the medical records about a patient are always accessible with a single click. Latest diagnostic reports, complete medical history, details about allergies and ongoing medications, symptoms, and vitals charts are essential for doctors to make the best decision regarding error-free patient care.
Top Features of a Comprehensive Patient Portal
- Once you are ready to adopt a new patient management portal, you must know about all the features you would use and your staff and patients. Depending on the type of your practice – a corporate hospital, a private hospital, private practice, or pharmacy, the features you would need would vary greatly.
- An independent portal can offer a wide range and spectrum of features for a patient portal, but that would also depend on the developer team. With more features, you can serve more hospitals, doctors, and more patients, but you would incur more costs for more features as well.
- You need to segregate the essential and ancillary features. For example, you may find that appointment booking, online billing, and online payments facilities are the most critical needs of your practice. But you expect that for the time being you do not need an automated alerts and reminders facility.
- With this separation of “must-have” features from the “nice-to-have” capabilities, you can phase the development and budget expenditures from the beginning. This will also help you zero in on the vendor with a more flexible modular system to allow for later integration of features as your business grows.
- We list here the core & essential and ancillary features for a comprehensive patient portal to help you make decisions.
Essential Features of Patient Portal Software
Patients can self-register on the portal, filling up detailed medical history records, allergies, travel histories, and ongoing medications. A comprehensive and more accurate record helps in better treatment and care.
Online Appointments Scheduling:
The system must allow the patients to check the availability of their doctors in a visual calendar-like form. This can easily help them book their appointments with a simple click or a drop-down at the available slot. They can also plan their appointments with multiple physicians on the same day with enough margin to allow for movement from one place to another.
Appointment booking is not only a feature for physicians, but diagnostic labs and radiography labs also need this feature to avoid overcrowding in the waiting area and optimally utilize their off-peak hours in servicing patients who need quick services.
Patient Medical History:
The patient portal must allow the patients to ‘write’ their own medical history detailing how they felt and what their symptoms were. This should be collated with the clinical and pathological records of the past treatment by all doctors. The medical history must be maintained chronologically and tagged for a filter by different criteria such as specialization or illness for fast retrieval.
All the new treatment files, doctor’s notes, lab reports, and treatment plans must automatically get added to the patient’s medical history for future references.
Accessing Medical Records:
Complete and easy access to medical records is one of the core features of a patient portal. With a centralized database and an application engine controlling the access to these records, authorized personnel can access parts of the medical records as per their rights and needs.
These medical records include medical and clinical notes, prescriptions, treatment plan, lab reports, diagnostic reports, and vitals charts. This also helps in accessing telemedicine facilities or second opinions from expert consultants in other cities, by sharing the records for a limited time.
Billing and Online Payments:
The out-patient department, in-patient department, pharmacy, labs, and all other departments can update the services and medicines consumed in the treatment of the patient to the common portal from their workstations. This means no more missing slips and errors in billing. Any medicines and consumables that are not used are also returned and automatically adjusted in the bills.
The insurance companies can make payment for all the approved procedures and treatments at agreed-upon rates, and the rest can be forwarded to the patient for co-pay. The patients can check their invoices and make online payments using multiple channels like credit or debit cards, online banking, and mobile wallets.
Security and Encryption:
The security of medical records is of utmost importance as it involves the patient’s privacy as well as the legal and ethical responsibility of the healthcare provider. The security of data is required at all levels – data capture, storage, filtering, access, sharing, and transmission.
Implementation of encryption protocols to encrypt sensitive data at all stages and decrypt only when an authorized user is accessing them is an essential feature of a patient portal.
The system must be impervious to external attacks and must have proper and regular backups to meet any eventuality.
The user interface of the patient portal, and its accompanying app, must be friendly for patients and doctors who may not be very tech-friendly. Use of minimal screens, visual clues, hints, and a guided system to tell them what to do next can increase the system’s adoption.
Usability and Navigation:
The user experience is built from the usability of the portal and its app. Ease of navigation and usability are two of the essential cornerstones of any successful software product. If your users are unable to use your app, they are sure to avoid it, and your investments in it will go in vain.
Ancillary Features of Patient Portal App
Prescription Refill Requests:
The portal should allow the patient to request a prescription refill. The pharmacy can forward the request to the doctor, who can check the online records and approve them. Similarly, the doctor can directly send the prescription records to the pharmacy, which can be easily managed by pharmacy management software, which helps in preparing the medicines before the patients arrive at them to collect. The system can also print labels to identify patients and their usage instructions for each medicine.
Before a patient comes to visit a doctor, they may be required to fill up a pre-visit form indicating the purpose of visit, the disease they are suffering from, and the symptoms they are experiencing. The patient portal can allow the users to fill the pre-visit forms before they leave from home or while commuting to the clinic.
Some healthcare providers may allow their patients to communicate with them via messages from the portal to get answers to their treatment-related questions. In some cases, counseling is as effective treatment as medication is, and messaging can be helpful in those situations. It makes the patient feel that their doctors are always in control of the problem.
Emails and Notifications:
The patient portal can use emails to send automated messages as a reminder to book appointments, offer discounts on family packages, and make payment for the dues. Push notifications on the app can also serve the same purpose. The patient portal can also send a daily health update to the patient’s family via email or notifications.
Third-Party API Integrations:
Many third-party software like diagnostic lab software, payment gateways, telemedicine systems, videoconferencing, and messaging APIs would be needed to build the system. The patient portal must make available its services through APIs for easy future development and extension of services.
Awareness and Educational Materials:
As healthcare providers you may be keen to share insights with your patrons and patients on how to lead a healthy lifestyle. You may write a newsletter or weekly bulletin to inform them about the new landmarks crossed and suggest living a healthy and wholesome life.
Customization means fitting the system to meet your requirements. Although the system would be designed to make room for most needs and requirements in the medical industry, there may still be a one-off case where special needs require catering. The ability to carry out customizations as per those special needs is as much important.
Last but not the least, is the availability of 24x7x365 online support from your development partner. The nature of the medical care and patient portal industry is such that there are always thousands of users accessing it for patient records. If anything goes wrong, you will need support from a reliable partner who can offer round-the-clock support to global customers.
How to Develop an Online Patient Portal?
Now that we have covered the benefits and features of a patient Portal, let us now turn to the process of development of a successful system. Before you move ahead and hire a development team, please consider these points very carefully.
Identify Target Audience.
Whether you are developing an independent portal or a portal for a larger chain of healthcare providers, many requirements will be the same, and many will be quite different. What kind of users will access which features will also decide the level of system design you must plan. Therefore, a careful survey of the target users is essential.
Selecting a technology on decline may offer you cost advantages initially but will prove to be more costly in the long run. You will not be able to extend the system’s services, add new features to it, and even integrate it with your other systems. Therefore, the selection of technology should always be futuristic to handle your needs for at least next five to ten years from now. Support for advanced features such as API-based services, mobile app, cloud-based systems, AI/ML support, accessibility options for physically challenged patients are some of the features you must look for in the technology.
The Healthcare industry is one of the most regulated industries in the world. Managing patients’ medical records make your work directly come under the purview of healthcare regulators of the country where you offer your services. Regulatory compliance in capturing, storing, transmitting, and sharing medical records is necessary and you must check for certification from the regulatory bodies in favour of the product you are planning to buy or develop.
Dedicated Development Team
Once all the above aspects are clear, you must hire a dedicated development team to develop your system. But hiring an in-house team is a difficult and challenging option as you will have to waiver from your core task of patient management.
Therefore, it is always suggested that you outsource your development requirements to a reliable and established third-party software developer vendor. They have experts in all the technologies, necessary infrastructure, and experience in developing and maintaining similar software systems.
Additionally, an expert team of software analysts and engineers can offer you out-of-the-box innovative ideas to take the market by surprise and outgrow your competition.
Required Team structure for Patient Portal Software Development
Your investments in time, effort, and money all can go down the drain if an inexperienced team is chosen for a project of this complexity.
Whatever the features, type, and complexity of the mobile app and website, you must ensure to hire the best and experienced professionals like Arka Softwares The team must have a good portfolio of the app and web solutions, including experience in deploying patient portals for other providers.
A typical experienced team will have:
- Project Manager: Project manager with the requisite experience and managerial skill set.
- App Developers: Includes back-end app developers, web-portal front-end developers, hybrid / Android/ iOS app developers.
- UI/UX Engineers: Includes graphic designers and expert UI/UX designers.
- QA and Testers: Includes team to run manual and automated tests for quality assurance.
Deploy and Go-live.
Once your patient portal is up and running, its app is functioning properly, and the back end has been readied with data migration, you are ready for deployment and live testing of the system. We suggest that you run the existing system and the new system for a few days or weeks to allow users to ease into the new system.
What are the costs involved in patient portal development?
Now, as you have an idea of the development process, it would be easier for you to appreciate the effort and resources that go into designing, developing, and deploying such a complex system. The total cost for the development of an online, comprehensive, and cloud-based patient portal would depend on many factors.
Here are the most important ones that would concern your attention:
The cost of development involves the cost of the team that was described above. Depending on the technology and the location of the development team, your costs could be wary from USD 150/hour to USD 35/hour.
For example, development costs in the USA and the UK are highest, ranging between USD 120-150 per hour. The exact costs in Australia and New Zealand would be around USD 100-125/ hour and USD 75-100 in Eastern Europe. In countries like the Philippines, it would cost you around USD 50-80/hour. In India, however, the same quality of development can be availed at a mere USD 35-60 per hour rate.
We suggest that you opt for all the essential features listed above to make the portal functional and usable for the stakeholders. As for the ancillary features, it is up to you how many features you want to include. You can always start small and add more features as you go along. The number of features required in phase one will define its delivery timeline as well as costs.
We have a core set of features that we can demonstrate to you on short notice. We are always ready to make minor tweaks to them to accommodate your needs. If you and your team suggest major customizations, they would be chargeable depending on the effort and time required to carry them out.
Therefore, estimating the cost for a patient portal, accompanying a mobile app, and cloud-based back-end development is not an easy task.
At Arka Softwares, we have successfully built and deployed many patient portals for global customers. If you use the template that we gave you in this article about the features and the tech stack, then these estimates will be more accurate. However, there are still and many factors that may affect the pricing in any direction.
As mentioned above, the cost estimates must consider the following aspects:
- App features, including both must-haves and advanced features.
- The selection of the platform is iOS or Android, or both.
- Front-end app development
- Back-end app development
- UI/UX development
- Website connectivity
- Third-part API integration – for payment gateway, social media log in, etc.
We can give you a ballpark estimate of developing a patient portal in India in the range of USD 35,000 to USD 50,000.
Let’s Develop Patient Portals for the New Normal with Arka Softwares
The world of healthcare and patient care is evolving fast, and COVID-19 has made the need for such comprehensive solutions felt more acutely. As the needs of the healthcare providers and patients change, so must the solutions to cater to those needs.
Whether you are a hospital administrator, a doctor with private practice, a pharmacy chain owner, or an entrepreneur and want to know more, you know where to reach us. We are always available to give you the best advice and consultancy on your innovative ideas.
Let us revolutionize the healthcare industry together and help patients with better care.
Satyam Chaturvedi is a Digital Marketing Strategist at Arka Softwares, a leading mobile app development company dealing in modern and futuristic web and mobile app solutions. He loves to spend his time in studying the market trends and helping startups and enterprises in achieving their business goals.