Do Patients Want Patient Portals?

June 27, 2019

They might be the key to patient engagement, but how are patients using them?

Consumerism has come to healthcare, and it isn’t going away anytime soon. As healthcare executives look for innovative ways to increase patient satisfaction and engagement, many are turning to patient portals as an obvious step. But just how are those portals being used?

Dan Clarin, senior vice president, Kaufman Hall, says that as electronic health records have become ubiquitous, patient portals have become a baseline offering: “Based on our recent State of Consumerism survey results, 97% of organizations have at least some availability of patient portal functionality, and 82% say they are either best in class or have wide availability of patient portal functionality.”

However, even though portals are so commonplace, research suggests that many patients aren’t using them.

Related: How To Engage Older Adults With Patient Portals

While Clarin says Kaufman Hall has no direct consumer data on why patients don’t use portals. However, Clarin says, “given our understanding of consumers based on all of the research we’ve done, we would hypothesize that patients may not be using patient portals because they were not designed to solve for a specific set of consumer needs. They were designed to give patients access to the health system’s medical records-and patients may not have that much interest in accessing their medical information unless they absolutely need to. In addition, the medical record companies are, at their core, not consumer product companies. They make and sell software to hospitals and health systems.”

While it might seem like the next step should be encouraging patients to use the portals, Clarin says that’s not the right place to start.

“Health executives should be finding out how patients want to engage with them and what information is important to them-and then develop solutions to meet those needs and preferences. Rather than starting with an internal system we already have and asking how we can get patients to meet us where we are, we need to think about meeting patients where they are.”