With risky symptoms, patients don't use portals

Despite the widespread growth of patient portals, a new study from the Mayo clinic suggests that's not the communication medium patients use with time-sensitive symptoms.

Unlike a phone call, response to patient messages and eVisits might not provide immediate assistance for symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, the authors write in an article at the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, and wondered if that puts patients at risk. 

To find out, they analyzed 6,430 secure messages and 892 eVisits for signs of high-risk symptoms, looking for deaths within 30 days of a message or hospitalization or an ED visit within seven days. They found two deaths that were unrelated to the message, six hospitalizations related to a secure message (0.09 percent of secure messages) and two hospitalizations related to a previous eVisit (0.22 percent of eVisits).

Overall, they determined that patients used secure messages or eVisits just 3.5 percent of the time when high-risk symptoms were present.

Veterans Administration researchers, in a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, found that problems with adoption and use of personal health records by consumers was related to problems providers had with the system as well as the strength of their endorsement. Training was a big predictor of success. The systems' PHR's secure messaging function, however, was rated by providers as having "significant value."  Interestingly, the providers had received training in use of the system.

A Swedish study, meanwhile, found doctors involved in the creation of a portal were more likely to recommend it to patients.

Personal health records represent a faster, more patient-friendly method for health information exchange than HIE solutions, David Mendelson, a professor of radiology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, said at the recent Information Management Network Hospital Cloud Forum. They cut through the levels of bureaucracy.

"[A]s much as I would like to believe that the HIE solution can work and will work, I still think if you have a significant illness, you'd like to have [your data] in your hands just to get it to the doctor you choose to see at any given moment in time," he said

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