Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Increasing Use of the Patient Portal

Increasing Use of the Patient Portal

Texas Tech Physicians offers a patient portal that provides secure online access to the patient’s electronic health record information and the ability to communicate, via messaging, with providers.  We believe it can improve health care. Yet, usage remains disappointing when compared to its potential. In trying to figure out why and what to do about it, a scholarly article entitled, “Who Isn’t Using Patient Portals and Why? Evidence and Implications from a National Sample of US Adults” by Denise L. Anthony, Celeste Campos-Castillo, and Paulina S. Lim, published in Health Affairs, caught my eye. These researchers analyzed information from a 2017 survey to examine 2,325 insured respondents to determine the characteristics of portal nonusers and reasons for nonuse.

Here is what they found. Sixty three percent reported not using a portal during the prior year. In multivariable analysis, they found that nonusers were more likely to be male, to be on Medicaid, to lack a regular provider, and to have less than a college education, compared to users.

Interestingly, there was some difference between people reporting being offered access to a portal. We want to be sure that isn’t the case with us—everyone should be offered access to the portal, shown how it works, and given clear, simple instructions in plain language before they leave, if they have the time.

The researchers further concluded that reasons for nonuse included the desire to speak directly to providers and privacy concerns.  This is understandable, but some things like checking on routine lab results (especially when results are within normal limits) and asking for a prescription refill would seem to be areas where good communication by us to the patient would overcome potential objections.

Texas Tech Physicians is working on communication at all levels, but we especially appreciate the critical role of provider communication and patient-provider relationships.  We also appreciate our patients and respect their desire to determine how they wish to communicate (It’s not just our decision). We simply don’t want them to miss out on a good method!