Study: Secure messaging with diabetes patients helps improve some, not all, outcomes

A report examining studies conducted on outcomes of diabetes patients related to secure messaging in an electronic health record system show that use of such technology can help improve hemoglobin A1c levels, but secondary outcomes were inconsistent.

The authors, from the University of Miami, looked for studies on diabetes and patient portals or EMRs, and found 11 that matched their criteria, according to the report, published in Telemedicine and e-Health.

Through evaluation of those studies, the authors found that seven of the 11 showed "significant" improvement in HbA1c levels when secure messaging was used. However, the researchers added that only one study contained data spanning more than two years, most likely because secure messaging capabilities in EHRs are fairly new and "relatively unexplored."

In addition, they said that patient engagement and adherence to medical leading practices betters outcomes; thus, the direct messaging can help enable that engagement, but at the same time it is "not sufficient to achieve the ultimate patient engagement goals."

Many studies also included other features in EHRs that may have contributed to better outcomes, such as educational materials. While that made it occasionally difficult for the researchers to see if secure messaging alone had an impact, it did "shed light on many potential features that can be maximized."

Kaiser Permanente, through a series of studies on its EHR, found that patient portals and record systems can improve the care of patients with chronic diseases, such as diabetes. In one study, researchers found that nearly 50 percent of diabetes patients viewed their cholesterol levels via the portal within a week of being posted, which was associated with better follow up.

In addition, EHRs are better at flagging patients who may have undiagnosed Type 2 diabetes than conventional screening--and at identifying several previously unknown risk factors for the illness, FierceEMR previously reported.

To learn more:
- here's the study abstract