These are questions hospitals are grappling with as they seek to deploy patient portals and meet Meaningful Use guidelines. One study, recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Society, found that even when 80 percent of the patients in a small study made use of the mobile patient portal provided to them, it didn’t make them that much more knowledgable about things like their care plan or their medications. The only significant benefit of the portal was that users were more likely to know the name of their doctor than members of the control group.
The study was conducted on 202 patients (100 in the intervention group and 102 in the control group) at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Researchers created their own patient portal for the study, an iPad application that integrated with the hospital’s Cerner EHR and provided patients with their general health information, names and photos of their care team, their medication list, and their agenda for the day.
Eighty percent of the patients in the patient portal group used their iPad at least once during the study, while 57 percent used it more than once per day. Seventy-six percent of patients said they were satisfied with the portal, and 71 percent said it was easy to use.
But when patients in each group were asked questions about the information contained in the portal, in nearly every category there was no difference between the groups. The control group was actually slightly more knowledgable about planned tests and planned procedures (though not significantly so). The short form patient activation measure, an established test for patient engagement, also showed no differences between groups.