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Providers Still Hesitant With Portals, Study Finds

October 25, 2013
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Despite the push towards greater use of patient portals, the overwhelming majority of providers prefer traditional methods when it comes to communication with patients, according to a new study conducted by the Auburn, Calif.-based TCS Healthcare Technologies, the Case Management Society of America (CMSA), and the American Board of Quality Assurance and Utilization Review Physicians.

The study found that the majority of providers are still using telephone (91 percent), face-to-face conversations (71 percent), or letters (74 percent) to communicate with patients rather than opting for portals, remote monitoring, or online personal health records.

Of the more than 600 healthcare providers surveyed, only 15 percent indicated they were using patient portals to communicate with patients; 7 percent were using remote monitoring devices, and 8 percent were using smartphone applications.

However, when compared to the 2010 survey results, shifting trends can be seen in the increased use of newer patient communication methods such as text messaging (6 percent), social networking sites (5 percent), member/patient portals (3 percent), wireless monitoring solutions (3 percent), e-mail (2 percent), and smartphone applications (2 percent).

Though these results may appear counterintuitive, the downward trends may be explained in a couple of different ways. For instance, the reduction in cell phone use could be the result of expanded use of mobile “smart” devices including iPhones and Android-based phones. According to a June 2013 Nielsen survey, three out of five mobile subscribers in the U.S. have owned a smartphone within the past three months (March-May 2013), the report’s authors said.

The reduction of desktops and personal health records could be due to the increased use of mobile devices such as tablets, smart phones and other applications that run off newer technology. In fact, technology experts now predict that half of all internet traffic is coming through mobile devices. Therefore, the slight trend differences might be based on some question bias (due to the rapidly changing IT field) and/or just random variation in the two survey populations, according to the report’s conclusions. 

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Does anyone communicate, for free, with their lawyer or computer consultant via a portal?

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