Study: Tailored team approach to portal promotion boosts patient engagement

Physician practices can increase patient use of portals if they customize their promotion and integrate them into a patient's routine care, according to a study published this month in the Annals of Family Medicine.

The researchers, from Virginia Commonwealth University and elsewhere, noted that small to medium primary care practices were unlikely to engage in large-scale promotions inviting patients to join a portal the way that an integrated delivery system can. They wanted to evaluate the feasibility of whether and how the practices could engage patients to use the technology using other methods.

They studied eight practices between December 2010 and June 2013 in the Virginia Ambulatory Care Outcomes Research Network that used an interactive preventive health record (IPHR), which provides personally tailored recommendations and resources for 18 preventative services and associated chronic conditions. Of the 112,893 patients who had an office visit during that time, 25.6 percent created an IPHR account. 

Several factors, including using a team approach to notify patients about the IPHR rather than relying just on the clinician and providing patients with the ability to view lab results, appeared to account for increases in IPHR adoption and use. Patients with chronic conditions who tend to have more office visits, lab tests and need for self-management also boasted increased IPHR use. 

"[U]ptake may be lower for online personal health records offered by Internet companies or health plans, where the imprimatur of one's personal clinician is lacking," the researchers concluded. "Learning collaborative underscored the need for practices to customize their implementation plan, which cultivates innovation. Even with such efforts, however, not all patients used the IPHR. Remaining patients may require alternative engagement strategies."

Providers have expressed concern about their ability to engage patients in health IT, which is a major component of the Meaningful Use program. Studies have shown that patients are slow to use the tools and often are frustrated with them; some patients are not aware that their providers even offer portals, indicating a need to better communicate their existence and benefits.

To learn more:
- here's the study