Diabetic portal users take their meds, lower cholesterol

Diabetic patients who used a patient portal to refill their prescription cholesterol medication improved their medication adherence and cholesterol levels, according to a Kaiser Permanente study which took place Northern California.

Medication adherence improved by 6 percent among patients who used the portal as their exclusive means to obtain a refill, reports the paper published in the journal Medical Care. Similar decreases were found in LDL cholesterol among exclusive users compared with occasional users of the portal's refill function and those who never used the portal.

Kaiser Permanente's personal health record, My Health Manager, allows patients to schedule appointments, access their health records, view lab results and e-mail their care providers as well.

When the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reviewed 46 different studies of patient portals, it concluded that it's it's still unknown whether the portals actually improve outcomes, increase patient satisfaction or create efficiencies. In this Kaiser study, the authors assert that portal use does improve patient health--and that its benefits go beyond convenience, according to an announcement.

In an opinion piece at the Journal of the American Medical Association, authors from the University of California, San Francisco and Harvard Medical School argue that portals' many benefits aren't available to caregivers and care partners--those who help patients navigate the health system.

They say technology and policies on authentication can be put in place to ensure privacy and security of the information while granting patient-only access or access to those whom the patient designates.

"Federal support for research should be made available for demonstration projects to understand how to best provide access to personal health records for patients with caregivers, children and adolescents, and adults with high or complex health needs with care partners, and to assess the benefits of doing so," they write.

Consumer Reports cites better documentation among the plusses for using a patient portal. Patients generally remember less than half of what they're told in the office or on the phone, according to the story, but "e-mail is self-documenting," according to Daniel Sands, M.D., a practicing physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

A Frost & Sullivan analysis recently predicted that the market for patient portal technology will grow significantly over the next five years to $898.4 million in 2017, with doctors and hospitals moving to a next generation of the technology. It is expected to include robust functions, such as health information exchange across diverse care settings, integration of clinical and financial data, dynamic scheduling, social networking and gaming.

To learn more:
- find the study
- here's the announcement
- read the JAMA piece
- check out the Consumer Reports story