Kaiser Permanente: Patient portal support improves care but can create e-health disparities

Patient portals have great potential to improve care by better engaging patients in their own health and supporting better care delivery--if only more providers gave consumers the opportunity--according to a recent Health Affairs Blog post.

The blog post, written by trio of Kaiser Permanente employees, notes that consumer expectations and Meaningful Use requirements both call for increased use of user-friendly technology such as ATMs and Uber.  However, only 10.4 percent of U.S. hospitals in the first half of 2015 had met the Meaningful Use requirement that patients be able to electronically view, download and transmit their records. Another study showed that only 15 percent of consumers had access to email their providers, many physicians simply didn't offer email or other electronic tools such as online appointment reminders.

It provides several lessons learned from Kaiser's 10 years of experience with its portal, the largest private sector portal in the country. They include:

  • Secure email supports improves outcomes; such tools led between a 2 and 6.5 percent improvement in HEDIS performance measures, such as blood pressure screening
  • As email visits increase, primary care access improves because technology allows more patient contact
  • E-health disparities exist; the researchers point out that whites and more highly educated Kaiser members were more likely to register for the portal

To learn more:
- read the blog post