Increased engagement through patient portals remains a health initiative and a benchmark for meaningful use incentives, yet a large number of patients report being unaware of their ability to access medical information and communicate with healthcare providers through this medium.
A recent study by TechnologyAdvice shows nearly 40 percent of patients are unsure if their primary care physician has a patient portal website available, while another 11 percent are confident their physician “does not” offer one. In all, less than half of the 430 patients surveyed — 49.2 percent — report actually being shown a patient portal by their primary care physician either during a visit or outside a visit.
“With incentives tied to digital patient engagement and a general shift to integrated platforms taking place, all signals point to patient portals becoming increasingly prominent in the patient-physician relationship. However, it appears many physicians are not doing enough to educate patients about their portals and provide incentives for their use,” said TechnologyAdvice editorial coordinator Cameron Graham, who authored the study. “This lack of patient portal awareness appears to be slowing down a significant digital switch in patient-physician communication, considering the study also shows there is little change in the way patients prefer to interact with their doctors.”
Nearly 43 percent of patients say they prefer that doctors contact them by phone for general communication and to provide test results. These preferences are true even for the 18 through 24 age group, though, the younger respondents did report a greater preference for scheduling appointments online.
A lack of follow-up from doctors also appears to be impacting patient portal awareness. Fewer than half of respondents report receiving follow-up contact from their doctor (not counting payment or billing notifications), and only 9.1 percent of those follow-ups occurred through a patient portal.
Patient portals allow physicians to interact with their patients outside of regular visits, distribute test results to them, and allow patients to schedule appointments using online calendars. Many EHR systems now feature integrated patient portals, and practices must interact with at least five percent of their patients through such sites this year to qualify for Meaningful Use Stage 2 incentives.
More information on the study and its methodology can be found at TechnologyAdvice.com.