New webportal gives much info to patients

Patients can do a lot before they arrive

The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston launched a new patient webportal that allows patients to participate in scheduling their first appointment, reports Connie Longuet, MBA, MHA, CHAM, director of patient access services.

The hospital had a webportal in place for years for patients who already had been to the hospital, but a potential new patient’s communication was done completely through telephone calls. “When a patient contacts us to schedule their first appointment, they can now go online and complete a request form,” says Longuet.

The patient can choose to enter basic contact information and request that someone call them back, but about 65% choose to continue online and complete additional demographic and medical information forms. “This allows patients to have time to compile the needed data, including current medications, previous treatments, and family history,” says Longuet. When this information is gathered over the phone, it often takes several phone calls for patient access staff to convey what is needed and more calls to for the patient to provide the information to the hospital.

“We provided callers with lots of information: where to park, lodging, what to bring, and when their appointment was,” says Longuet. Patients are now able to get this information online, as well as:

• Set up preference options that allow them to receive email and text notifications during different steps in the process. “Staff can send an email or text to a patient when they need to reach them and have not been able to by phone,” adds Longuet.

• See if the hospital has received medical records, pathology reports, or diagnostic reports.

• View and print an insurance summary page of their benefits, including co-pays, deductibles, co-insurance, pre-existing clauses, and lifetime maximums.

The new web portal was implemented in five clinics, and the remaining clinics are being rolled out by August 2013.

“It has taken tremendous coordination between our Internet services technical team, the technical team that manages our patient master files, and patient access services,” says Longuet. The biggest challenge, she says, is to ensure data is transmitted in a timely manner and patients are viewing the most up-do-date information.

Next step: Web chat feature

In phase two of the project, the organization will add a web chat feature that will allow patients to ask a question with a live representative during normal business hours.

“The patient always has the option to speak to us by phone as well,” says Longuet. “But with current technology, there are many other options. We want to offer choices to our patients.”


For more information on patient web portals in patient access, contact:

Connie Longuet, MBA, MHA, CHAM, Director, Patient Access Services, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston. E-mail: