A collaborative research effort was conducted of portal utilization by academics, statisticians, informatics experts, and clinicians. The study took place in a Mid-Atlantic multi hospital system in Northern Virginia and the Washington DC area. The healthcare system, is a comprehensive network of hospitals, outpatient services and facilities, primary and specialty practices, and health and wellness initiatives.
The study assessed activation of MyChart Patient portal, an application within the Epic Electronic Health Record. A total of 387,198 patients met the study inclusion criteria. Of those meeting the inclusion criteria 80,435 activated the portal. A multiple logistic regression model was calculated to determine independent predictors of patient portal activation. All tests were two-sided and statistical significance was assessed at the level of α=0.05. The results indicated Independent predictors of portal activation were age, sex, language, race, ethnicity, poverty level by zip code, employment status, named primary care provider, and number of encounters during the study period.
The population studied was racially and ethnically diverse. This study was unique in that it focused on patient activation whereas other researchers focused on utilization. Given the demographics of the area studied, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, the overall activation for poral use was still less than desired with an activation of 21% There was a higher activation rate among English speaking patients and older adults from 60-69 years old. Analysis of the data led the researchers to modify the current application of MyChart to include Spanish. The study provided insights into the importance of examining the demographics of the user population and incorporate more education from the providers to help with activation. The study results highlighted the need to engage more patients to activite and utilize portals. Healthcare providers have an imperative to encourage patients to connect and explain advantages for them to have virtual access to their health information. More research is needed to help engage patients identify barriers to portal activation and address them in a proactive manner in order to improve timely access to health care information and coach and encourage patient to be involved in their health care as active partners. This study has implications for global health if a very industrialized and high tech region has low rates of portal utilization strategies must address, access, opportunity to enhance user friendliness of this technology.