Hospitals, Health Systems And Clinics Adding Portals, But Consumers Not Synched Up

With Meaningful Use Stage 2 requiring that 5 percent of patients use them, a growing number of health systems, hospitals and clinics have rolled out patient portals, according to a recent study by KLAS. In fact, 57 percent of providers now offer a portal, typically connected to their enterprise EMR, KLAS found.

The thing is, somehow these efforts aren’t reaching consumers. In a new Wolters Kluwer Health survey of 1,000 consumers, only 19 percent said that they have access to a personal health record.

It’s not that patients don’t want to be engaged in their health — 80 percent of respondents said greater control of healthcare is positive — but it seems that they either don’t like or don’t know how to find the portals available to them.

Ultimately, the broad mass of consumers simply don’t seem to see a crying need to use portals as of yet. Seventy-six percent of respondents to the Wolters Kluwer survey said that they have the information and tools they need to manage basic healthcare functions such as choosing providers and researching treatment options, clearly dwarfing the number who care to look at their own patient data.

That being said, there’s a small (but I’d argue, growing) minority of patients who do take connections with providers seriously. Nineteen percent of respondents told researchers that the ability to communicate via e-mail with doctors and nurses and schedule appointments online was an important factor in choosing a medical practice. In other words, there’s clearly a wired contingent out there which would probably respond well to a truly useful portal.

How can hospitals and clinics get patients engaged in PHR use?  My gut instinct is that consumers won’t give a hoot about PHRs until they become a tool that’s part of their medical or hospital visit. If doctors work with a PHR, turning the visit into a collaboration, patients will be motivated to follow up and review what they’ve learned.

I guess what I’m saying is that we should start by getting doctors engaged with PHRs as a means of getting patients involved. If they do that, PHRs will go from being some Web site to a valuable tool for sharing care information.  If not, don’t expect the number of PHR-interested consumers to climb anytime soon.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

2 Comments

  • When consumers (both direct patient and caregivers) feel educated and empowered they will more likely utilize a patient portal.
    How good is the physician relationship regarding in office EMR/EHR etiquette (great video on this here on the site as well)?
    A good relationship with HIT in the practitioners office means an engaged and more compliant patient when they coordinate their own care and drive outcomes.
    Make an ongoing effort to advertise the patient portal as a way to improve ones overall health and wellness, this allows accountability and empowerment.

    Lastly if they don’t know where to find the tool you can’t expect them to drive utilization, when you give a follow up appointment card have the patient portal info printed on it.

  • Until practices with EHRs and portals actually tell the patients about the portals and encourage them to use such, usage will stay low. I have only 1 doctor that I am likely to see who even has an EHR, and I only found the portal by asking about it. On the good side, the doctor actually does respond to questions via the portal. On the down side, this easy to use EPIC portal has no lab results (but a nice place for them), no ability to request appointments (except by email), no discharge summaries, etc. At last check, fewer then 10 patients had gotten access since no one in the practice volunteers the availability to patients.

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