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Clutha Health First ramps up patient portal use

Monday 14 December 2020

More hard-work than hard-sell, Clutha Health First used a simple but effective approach to growing patient portal usage, adding more than 1,200 new registrations in July alone.

The Balclutha-based Health Care Home general practice now has 3,545 of its approximately 8,300 patients signed up for patient portals – more than 52% of eligible patents.

Their not-so-secret weapons are perseverance and a personal touch. A small team, including HCH coordinator and practice nurse Shelley Milne, connected with patients they thought would be most receptive to using the secure portal – a website providing patients with access to their health records, enabling them to book appointments, reorder prescriptions and more.

The team started with emails to 700 people who had attended influenza vaccination clinics in the previous month, explaining the benefits of the service and inviting them to sign up. Phone calls and appointments were also used to remind and encourage people to register and activate their portals.

“It was a good place to start as we know that these are engaged  patients, active in their own health care,” says Shelley, whose role is to help to implement improvements that better support patients and improve practice operations.

CHF has switched on the optional Open Notes feature in portal, which lets patients see their GP’s notes, along with their health records. 

“It is a good way to encourage and enable patients in be involved in their healthcare. Sometimes, after they’ve left an appointment, and they want to check what the agreed plan is, they can check online. And it’s all secure,” Shelley says.

CHF plans to continue to grow patient portal enrollment – viewing the service as an enabler for other Health Care Home initiatives, such as GP telephone triage and, potentially, telehealth appointments.

In addition to growing enrollment and encouraging people to use the portal, Shelley says the practice would like to introduce secure messaging in the near future, enabling quick, easy and secure communications between patients and clinicians via the portal.

“You’d be surprised who are the big users of portals – all ages and all walks of life,” she says. “But these services never replace the relationship we have with our patients. Portals help us make best use of the time and resources we have.”

WellSouth’s Stuart Barson says Clutha Health First has embraced Health Care Home as a way of offering their patients better access and choice: “Face-to-face appointments are still available – in fact, they’re more readily available for those who most need them. But there are more options for accessing care, including greater use of online patient portals, telephone consultations and seeing one of the other highly experienced Clutha Health health professionals like a nurse or health coach.”

About Health Care Home

Health Care Home is a model of general practice that improves patient experience and access to care while also supporting the sustainability of general practice. It is used across New Zealand and internationally. Read more

The Health Care Home programme was introduced in 2018 as part of the Southern Primary and Community Care Strategy. The strategy is a blueprint for improving health care services across the Southern district by increasing capacity and capability in primary and community care, providing care closer to people’s homes, and promoting more equal access to services for better health outcomes.

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