40% of Patients Unaware of Online Patient Portals, Survey Finds

August 15, 2014 in News

Many patients are unaware of whether their doctors offer patient portals for online scheduling and communication, according to a TechnologyAdvice survey released Wednesday, MobiHealthNews reports (Pai, MobiHealthNews, 8/13).

Details of Survey

For the survey, researchers from TechnologyAdvice polled a random sample of 430 individuals who had visited their primary care physician within the last year. The survey aimed to determine how patients preferred to communicate with their doctors (Graham, TechnologyAdvice blog, 8/13).

Findings

Overall, the results indicated that many physicians did not properly discuss the availability of Web-based tools with patients. Specifically:

  • 40% of patients did not know about patient portal offerings;
  • About 49% knew their doctors had portals; and
  • 11% knew that their doctors did not offer portals (Goth, Health Data Management, 8/15).

Further, the survey found that physicians did not effectively use patient portals for communication. Of the survey respondents who were aware of portals, only 9.1% said their doctors use the technology to follow-up on appointments. Other common methods of communication reported by respondents included:

  • Email, which 6% used;
  • Letters, which 12.8% used; and
  • Phone calls, which 23.5% used.

According to the poll, the majority of respondents preferred to use a phone to communicate with their health care provider.

However, more than 60% of patients ages 18 to 25 preferred to schedule appointments online (MobiHealthNews, 8/13).

Reaction

A TechnologyAdvice blog post about the survey noted, “These findings suggest that many physicians do not have adequate programs in place to introduce patients to such online resources and are not engaging their patients post-appointment.”

However, patient portals likely will “become increasingly prominent in the patient-physician relationship” during the “general shift to integrated [electronic health record] platforms,” according to the blog post.

The blog post recommended that doctors implement in-office programs to teach patients about the portals (TechnologyAdvice blog, 8/13).

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