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Another Survey Points to Slow Adoption Rates With Patient Portals

August 18, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Only one-third of patients currently have access to a patient portal, while two-thirds either do not have access or are unsure, according to a new survey from the Austin, Tx.-based practice management systems reviewer Software Advice.

The survey included a random sample of 1,540 U.S. patients to gauge their awareness, satisfaction, and preferences regarding portal use. Meaningful use Stage 2, which focuses on patient engagement and education, requires providers to have a patient portal that’s used by at least 5 percent of patients in order for providers to successfully fulfill the requirement and receive financial incentives.

This survey’s results are in line with a recent one from Technology Advice, a consulting firm to potential software buyers, which found that nearly 40 percent of patients are unsure if their primary care physician even has a patient portal system.

This new data suggests that using a patient portal may be a new experience for many, which means patients may require extra direction from providers on how to access portals for the first time. It also supports recent findings that show providers have been slow to adopt patient portals and successfully promote them to their patients.

The survey also found that the most requested patient portal feature is online scheduling, with 24 percent of respondents expressing a desire for this. Viewing test/lab results was the second most desired patient portal feature, with 22 percent of respondents expressing a preference for this. Another 21 percent of patients in the sample wanted a portal that would allow them to view and pay bills online.

Further, when asked which features of the patient portal cause patients the most frustration and lead to low usage rates, responsive staff (34 percent) and confusing portal interfaces (33 percent) topped the list of what patients find most irksome about patient portals.

The findings also found considerable differences in feature preferences between age groups. Patients in the 18-24 age range, for example, were more interested in viewing test results than older patients, who expressed a greater desire to view prescriptions/request refills and schedule appointments online.

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