Online portal availability a mystery to many patients

More patient portals are available at healthcare facilities across the U.S., but many patients don't know about the systems, according to a survey by TechnologyAdvice.

In a random survey of 430 patients, the consulting firm found that about 40 percent of patients don't know whether their primary care physicians have patient portal systems. However, 49 percent reported being shown the tool either during a visit or outside the visit.

The study's authors said the numbers suggest that more physicians offer patient portals due to the high rate of electronic health record adoption under Meaningful Use Stage 2, but fail to effectively communicate to patients that such tools exist.

In addition, few practices used portals to follow-up with patients after an appointment--only 9.1 percent, according to the survey. The authors said the results show physicians need to invest more time and resources to make patients aware of the portals.

However, patient portals have not had a big impact on the frequency of face-to-face primary care visits for adults, according to researchers from the Mayo Clinic.

When it comes to preferred way to schedule appointments, the study found younger patients (63.3 percent) prefer to make them online, while older patients (50.2 percent) prefer to handle them over the phone.

However, according to the study, when it comes to the doctor contacting patients, more than 42 percent prefer a phone call to an email (25.1 percent) or through online portals (13.6 percent).

The authors concluded that practices may find it harder to encourage patients to use online portals, especially for patient-physician communication, but that physicians also miss out on chances to educate their patients about the portals and offer them incentives to use the portals.

Patient portals also face scrutiny over privacy concerns. As more health data becomes available, many issues will arise regarding patient security and privacy of information, as previously reported by FierceHealthIT.

To learn more:
- check out the study