Primary Care Plays a Large Role in Adoption of Online Patient Portals

A recent study performed by the Annals of Family Medicine suggests that integrating online portal usage into primary care visits has been the most effective way to increase patient portal usage.

“While patient portals can help to engage patients in their care and even lead to improved health outcomes, getting patients online has been difficult,” Alex Krist, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, VCU School of Medicine told Healthdatamanagemnt.com.

The study emphasizes generating dialogue about the patient portal during routine care to encourage patients to be more active in the process of managing and staying up to date with their healthcare needs.

And contrary to the popular concern that online patient portal access would be limited to a younger, more tech savvy population the study also revealed that 1 out of 3 patients aged 60-69 utilized the portals—making the highest usage rate of any age group studied.

On the flipside, according to another recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, increased patient online access to doctors and medical records was associated with increased use of medical services.

According to CNN.com, the study, conducted by Dr. Ted Palen and his team looked at an integrated Colorado health system with more than 500,000 members. The team set out to find more definitive answers about the usage of the online portal, electronic medical records and their correlation to the amount of healthcare services patients use.

The team had hypothesized that access to the online portal would ultimately decrease in-person interaction with healthcare services, but to their surprise, they learned differently. “It puts the onus on us and a lot of other researchers to delve in to this further, to really peel away the layers of the onion to find out exactly what is going on and get a better understanding,” Palen told CNN.

Healthdatamanagement.com also reports that in analyzing data from eight Virginia primary care practices, they found integrating usage of the portal into office visits was more effective at increasing usage rates than other marketing and advertising efforts.

The way that online portal technology is engaging patients to participate more actively in their own healthcare is seemingly undeniable. Does your practice utilize a patient portal? If so, have you seen a difference in engagement from the patients that are actively using it?