Patient Portal Use During Hospitalization Remains Low

In the inpatient setting, access to electronic health records (EHRs) through patient portal use remains low, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

In the inpatient setting, access to electronic health records (EHRs) through patient portal use remains low, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, known as HIPAA, granted patients the right to freely access their medical records before and after hospitalization. As internet access has increased due to the advancement of smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices, patients now have more opportunities to access EHRs during treatment. Patients can look over their prescriptions, clinician notes, and manage appointments with healthcare providers when they have access to the patient portal.

"While patient portal use is increasing, the inpatient environment presents additional challenges for patients in receiving information about their care, which may affect use," the authors wrote.

The study examined if the way inpatient access to portal accounts differed from other patient access and if there was a relationship between inpatient portal use and hospital outcomes in 3 categories: 30-day readmission, 30-day mortality, and inpatient mortality. Every patient over the age of 18 with a patient portal account prior to admittance into the Mayo Clinic Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, was included in the study. The patients had to have been admitted into the hospital between August 1, 2012, to July 31, 2014.

Out of the 17,050 study participants, only 44.2% had a portal account already created before hospital admission. The percentage of patients with an established patient portal who accessed it during hospitalization was 20.8%. Those who accessed the patient portal were often younger, had frequent hospital visits, and had more severe disease scores than those who did not access the portal.

Patients are most likely not educated on the benefits of accessing medical information through the patient portal during hospitalization, the authors concluded. There is also no recorded difference in 30-day readmissions, inpatient mortality, or 30-day mortality among portal and non-portal users.

“The first step in determining whether patient portal use can improve hospital outcomes is to increase adoption and use by designing inpatient-specific portal tools that can engage patients and make them active participants in their healthcare," the authors wrote. "Future research should examine the role of portal use on more immediate outcomes such as patient experience and engagement to help clarify how patient portals can be used to improve outcomes.”