Teaching patients portal usage improves satisfaction, engagement
- Teaching patients how to access a patient portal and its role in their post-discharge care increases engagement during and after hospitalization. It also improves patient experience, a new JAMIA study finds.
- Researchers gave digital tablets to 97 patients for one day, showing them how to register and log in to the patient portal. Of those, 50 also received a bedside tutorial on key functions of the portal and the importance of those functions in their transition to follow-up care.
- Patients in the intervention group had a higher mean number of logins (3.48 versus 2.94) than controls. They also had a higher mean number of specific portal tasks than controls, though no individual comparison was statistically significant. Those in the test group had an easier time logging in and navigating the portal and were generally happy with the tablet approach — 88% reported being satisfied or very satisfied.
As MACRA and the Quality Payment Program place more emphasis on patient access to information, patient portals provide an effective means of engaging patients and improving outcomes.
And patients have indicated they want more communication from their doctors. In a recent Aetna report, 77% of consumers said it is very important for them to speak to them in easy-to-understand language and 59% would like access to other healthcare professionals to coordinate care. Younger consumers also expressed a high interest in digital tools to improve communication with providers.
While previous interventions have focused on engaging providers to improve completion of key tasks during transitions of care, this is the first randomized clinical trial to assess patient engagement as a way to increase portal use in and outside the hospital, the authors note.
The fact that the intervention took just 15 minutes to deliver made it "highly feasible and consistent to patients," they say.
Still, while use of the hospital's tablets increased engagement, the uptick was not significant in most instances, perhaps due to unfamiliarity with the devices, they suggest. Teaching patients to access the portal on their own devices could perhaps boost efficacy even more.
"As the movement towards 'bring your own device' (BYOD) gains momentum for patient engagement with the EHR and other health-related platforms (eg, diet, activity, and medication logs or other health-related apps), there is tremendous opportunity for patient in acute and post-acute phases of care," the authors write.
Future research should explore use of BYOD, such as whether personal devices could facilitate stored credentials and use of biometrics to log in to patient portals, they say. More research on portal use in hospitals is also needed, "especially given that most hospitals have not yet deployed this feature of EHR, and Meaningful Use will require higher use in the near future, suggesting an impending implementation boom — more evidence is needed to guide this process," they write.
Also needed is research on the ability to share data among disparate systems and how that affects use of portals when patients receive care at multiple institutions.