Columbus, OH. I’m a fan of patient portals. Mine doesn’t happen to be impressive in the least from a technology standpoint. But, the fact that I can avoid calling my doctor’s office and navigating their voice response system is a worthy advancement.
I also happen to manage the health of two small people who require a significant number of visits to the pediatrician. And, thankfully, I can access their immunization records through the portal, as it seems I have to provide that form several times a year for school and various camps and activities (which always seems to escape me until the night before it’s due).
Although I find them useful, analysts report that the adoption of patient portals (by patients) has been slow. A recent study (September, 2014) showed that just 36% of Americans use patient portals1. Most articles I read indicate that this is a disappointing metric.
But, is it? I was curious to see if there was correlation between frequency of office visits and usage of patient portals. My theory was that if, like me, you contacted the doctor’s office enough to be bothered by the inefficiencies, you would be more likely to use a patient portal.
According to the CDC, 20% of adults aged 18 and over had not made an office visit to a doctor or other health professional in the past 12 months, 18% had1 office visit, 26% had 2–3 visits, 23% had 4–9 visits, and 13% had 10 or more visits2.
While it’s not a direct correlation, it was interesting to find that 36% of the population had 4 or more visits to a healthcare professional in the past year which happens to be the same percentage of people that use patient portals.
While some analysts have looked discouragingly at the patient portal usage rate, I think it’s actually a positive indicator: those that need it are using it.
The patient portal is just one aspect of the Patient 1s and 0s trend we’ve been following (see trend 2 in our Healthcare Trends report). The next strides will make even more of an impact on the doctor-patient relationship and our health.
As more of us communicate directly with our doctors via email or text or actively manage our health by accessing our patient records online, we are essentially adding touchpoints. And, like patient portals, not every touchpoint will work for every patient. But, for those that do leverage these new access channels, it can make a real difference.