Patient portals provide individuals with timely and secure access to their health information and are intended to enhance interactions between patient and providers. With an increased focus on patient-centric care and shared decision-making, more healthcare providers are offering their patients access to this service. Patient portals can also be used to facilitate telemedicine visits, which enable individuals to consult with their physicians through the messaging system.
According to a recent study by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, individuals with newly diagnosed cancer view their electronic health record more frequently than cancer survivors or individuals who do not have cancer, but the uptake is still relatively low. Study investigators found that although 58% of patients who were recently diagnosed with cancer were offered access to view their online medical record, only 40% actually viewed it, and 18% did not. In addition, 59% of cancer survivors were offered access to their medical record online within the past year, but only 29% took advantage of this technology. Furthermore, 50% of individuals who never had cancer were offered access to their record, but only 28% actually viewed it.1
“Individuals with a previous cancer diagnosis most commonly cited a preference to speak to a healthcare provider directly as the reason why they did not view their online medical record,” the investigators noted.
Patients with a recent cancer diagnosis “may benefit from more information about the functions of online medical records for healthcare management, such as the ability to exchange secure messages with a provider, correct inaccurate information, or add new information to a medical record,” they concluded.
A review of 10 published articles on web portal use by patients with cancer, conducted by investigators from Augusta University Medical College of Georgia, and Morehouse College of Medicine, Atlanta, GA, also found underutilization of patient portals. This review found modest levels of portal use among patients with cancer, with greater use among individuals who were younger, white, and of higher socioeconomic status.2
In one of the studies, which included >6000 patients who had access to a web portal, patients logged in a median of 57 times each, most often to view test results or to read and respond to clinic messages.2
Focus groups revealed that breast and lung cancer survivors valued fulfillment of informational needs, communication, motivation, quality of feedback, and supervision in an interactive web portal, whereas healthcare professionals considered patient-reported monitoring and telemonitoring as the most useful features.2
In a survey of 37 patients with lung cancer, 82% of responses about using an interactive patient portal were positive. In addition, 69% of patients indicated that the portal was a valuable addition, and 56% perceived increased control over their health. However, 2 studies identified an association between increased patient anxiety and portal use, mainly owing to patients not understanding test results and viewing them before the results had been disclosed by their providers.2
“Our study adds to the growing evidence that patient portals play a significant role in promoting self-management in cancer survivors,” the investigators concluded. “Additional studies are needed to determine factors influencing portal use, so effective interventions can be developed to enhance portal use.”
- Johnson C, Krakow M, Patel V. Access and use of electronic health information by individuals with cancer: 2017-2018. January 2020. www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/page/2020-01/2018HINTSCancerDB.pdf. Accessed March 29, 2020.
- Coughlin SS, Caplan L, Young L. A review of web portal use by oncology patients. J Cancer Treatment Diagn. 2018;2:1-6.