Counter Intuitive Findings from Patient Portal Use

Posted on May 16, 2013 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The patient portal is becoming a really hot topic in healthcare. I think we can attribute much of the discussion to the EMR meaningful use requirements to engage with patients in a patient portal. I recently started a thread on LinkedIn based on a post by Jennifer Dennard called Opening up the Pandora’s Box of Patient Portals. The conversation in the thread was great, but David Voran, MD provided some incredibly valuable insight that I wanted to share with all of my readers. The following are Dr. Voran’s comments based on his experience using a patient portal.

Long have exploited the portal in our organization and we’ve now progressed to where the entire chart is available to patients. Can begin to list the results but here are my counter intuitive findings:
1) The more barriers a clinician erects between them and the patient the MORE work they wind up doing.
– Those of us physicians who have configured the portal to have most message types routed directly to the physician wind up answering less messages at the end of the day.
– Typically physicians will have all medication refill requests, questions about the last visit, requests for visits, etc. routed to a nurse or a pool to attempt to answer first. The majority of the time the person receiving this message can answer only part of the question and will then send a message to a physician for direction; the physician responds and then the nurse will interact with the patient; then the physician has to approve any orders or actions taken. This usually involves having the physician receive or respond in some way to 2 messages in their inbox. Those of us who receive the patient’s message directly answer one.
– Many other examples but typically those physicians who have barriers are answering or responding to 35-50% more messages than those who have no barriers.

2) The more the patient has access to the more engaged they will be and the more accurate the record will be. The patient is the best auditor of the record and will point out inconsistencies that can be corrected.

3) If the physician is the one to enroll or engage the patient. Those physicians who promote the portal will get 60-75% utilization of the portal. Those that are passive will see about 30% response rate.

4) Aggressive use of the portal will eliminate up to 8 hours of patient related phone conversations per nurse per week.