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Study: Discussing Portals During PCP Visit Can Increase Patient Engagement

October 7, 2014
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Directly engaging patients to use an online portal in the primary care setting can help such practices match or potentially surpass the portal usage rates achieved by large health systems, according to a study in Annals of Family Medicine.

Healthcare leaders encourage clinicians to offer portals that enable patients to access personal health records, but implementation has been a challenge. Although large integrated health systems have promoted use through costly advertising campaigns, other implementation methods are needed for small to medium-sized practices where most patients receive their care.

Between December 2010 and June 2013, researchers evaluated the feasibility of whether small to medium-sized primary care practices could engage patients to use the interactive preventive health record (IPHR), a patient-centered personal health record for prevention. The study was conducted at eight practices in the Virginia Ambulatory Care Outcomes Research Network (ACORN).

Researchers studied the effectiveness of two patient portal promotions for patients between 18 and 75 years old: discussing online portals directly with patients at the point of care, and mailing patients information about the portals. Overall, the number of online portal users increased 1 percent each month. Of the patients told about the portal during an office visit, 25.6 percent created an account to access the portal. When information was sent in the mail to use the portal, only 16.8 percent of invited patients responded.

Small to medium-sized primary care practices can effectively engage patients to use patient portals such as the IPHR by integrating promotion into routine care, the study’s authors concluded. This approach appears to be more effective than mailing invitations and to match the results of more elaborate promotion efforts by large integrated health systems, they said.

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