Only 28% of consumers with access to a digital portal provided by their health insurer or health system used the portal to view their medical records in the past year.

When it comes to patient and digital healthcare portals, sign-up is higher than actual use.

Today, half of all consumers (52%) have been offered access to a digital healthcare portal, compared with 43% in 2014, says new research from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

But even though more consumers now have access to a digital portal with self-service web tools to access their medical records or health benefits, communicate with doctors, book appointments and check laboratory tests, among other transactions, less than 30% are using portals. Only 28% of consumers with access to a digital portal provided by their health insurer or health system used the portal to view their medical records in the past year.

There are some highly active users. Among consumers that did use portals, 10% did so at least six times in the last year compared with 16% that did so three to five times annually. “Almost one quarter of the individuals offered access to their online medical record accessed their data three or more times in the past year,” the national coordinator says.

Patients and plan members have multiple reasons for why they don’t regularly use digital portals. 76% of consumers say they would prefer to speak to a healthcare provider directly, while 59% and 29%, respectively, don’t have a need to access online medical records or are concerned about privacy and security.

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Use of a digital health portal does increase when consumers are encouraged and coached by their provider to do so. 75% of consumers have been encouraged by their provider to use a digital portal and 63% of consumers that do use a portal at least once annually did so because of that direct coaching, the government says.

Lab test results and drugs are the top reasons patients use digital healthcare portals. The research from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, which came from data collected from 3,191 consumers for an annual survey on health information national trends by the National Cancer Institute, lists the top reasons as:

• Check lab results (92%)
• View current list of medications (79%)
• Office visit summaries (76%)
• Check list of health and medical problems (70%)
• Check list of allergies (62%)
• Check immunization and vaccination history (55%)
• Check clinical notes (51%)

“A majority of individuals who accessed their online medical record reported that their record included lists of health/medical problems and allergies,” the national coordinator says.

Consumers that do use a portal generally found that

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