Everyday, more patients and providers are making use of tools ranging from patient portals to disease management applications. Despite growing traction, one common stumbling block for various patient engagement tools is actually just advacing past square one: getting a patient through the first step of creating an account and logging in. In technology and design circles, this process is known as ‘onboarding’, and there numerous articles and blogs discussing the challenges of doing so. See this piece from Intercom outlining approaches that popular services and applications use.  

Aside from navigating the basic roadblocks of onboarding, creators of patient-facing tools in healthcare face other unique challenges such as HIPAA compliance, patient consent processes, and identify verification. As the Klio team has iterated our product and processes with feedback from our users, we’ve learned a few things along the way about how to reduce the friction for onboarding a patient - and most are not necessarily about the technology itself. Here are three key factors in ensuring patient onboarding success:

1. Clinician buy-in. This is critical. If the physicians, nurses, and other clinic staff who are interacting with patients do not promote the tool and tell their patients about its benefits, no slick interface or mind-blowing functionality will make a difference to patient uptake.

2. Physical artifacts. Part of helping the clinician properly present the tool to the patient is to give the providers support for doing so. A card or handout gives the clinician a physical prop that can aid in that discussion. In addition, a well-designed handout that easily guides the patient through the process also assuages any provider concerns in having the patients take the next step.

3. Onboard in the clinic. Where at all possible, make sure the patient can get onboarded before he or she leaves the clinic. I myself once lost the PIN code to my patient portal and as a result didn’t setup my account until my next visit months later. The clinicians we’ve worked with have supported in-clinic onboarding by setting up a tablet in the clinic for patients to use to sign-up. It’s at this point that good design can make a big difference - make it easy, quick, and show value immediately.