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Many Patients Unaware of Patient Portal Options, Survey Says

August 15, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Despite it being a meaningful use Stage 2 requirement that at least 5 percent of a provider's patients interact with the patient portal, according to a new survey, nearly 40 percent of patients are unsure if their primary care physician even has a patient portal system.

The study— “How Patients Want To Communicate With Their Physician” was conducted by Technology Advice, a consulting firm to potential software buyers, and included a random sample of 430 patients who had seen their primary care physician within the last year.

The responses indicate that just under half of primary care physicians are using patient portal software and have introduced their patients to it. While only 11 percent of surveyed patients reported that their physician did not offer a patient portal, 39.9 percent of respondents answered “not that I am aware of” when asked whether their physician used such a site, and whether they had been introduced to it.

“It appears physicians need to invest more time and resources in educating their patients on the availability of patient portals,” the report’s authors concluded. “Creating in-office orientation programs to walk patients through the portal site would likely reduce the large number of uninformed patients. Such programs would likely boost patient portal interaction numbers as well, and help physicians attest for meaningful use Stage 2.”

The data also showed that more than half of patients reported that their physician did not follow up with them after their appointment. Of practices that did follow up, only 9.1 percent did so through a patient portal.

Overall, patients reported that the number one way they’d like to schedule appointments is over the phone. However, patients aged 18-24 prefer to use an online calendar. To this end, 42.7 percent of patients said they prefer to receive test results over the phone. Only 18.1 percent prefer email, and 14.1 percent prefer online messages.

According to the study’s authors, 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. “By investing more resources and time into such initiatives, physicians will likely be able to raise their patient portal engagement rates, meet meaningful use Stage 2 requirements, and cultivate greater acceptance of online portals in their patient populations,” they said. 

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