Title

Direct release of test results to patients increases patient engagement and utilization of care

Document Type

Article

Abstract

An important focus for meaningful use criteria is to engage patients in their care by allowing them online access to their health information, including test results. There has been little evaluation of such initiatives. Using a mixed methods analysis of electronic health record data, surveys, and qualitative interviews, we examined the impact of allowing patients to view their test results via patient portal in one large health system. Quantitative data were collected for new users and all users of the patient portal. Qualitative interviews occurred with patients who had received an HbA1c or abnormal Pap result. Survey participants were active patient portal users. Our main measures were patient portal usage, factors associated with viewing test results and utilizing care, and patient and provider experiences with patient portal and direct release. Usage data show 80% of all patient portal users viewed test results during the year. Of survey respondents, 82.7%noted test results to be a very useful feature and 70% agreed that patient portal has made their provider more accessible to them. Interviewed patients reported feeling they should have direct access to test results and identified the ability to monitor results over time and prepare prior to communicating with a provider as benefits. In interviews, both patients and physicians reported instances of test results leading to unnecessary patient anxiety. Both groups noted the benefits of results released with provider interpretation. Quantitative data showed patient utilization to increase with viewing test results online, but this effect is mitigated when results are manually released by physicians. Our findings demonstrate that patient portal access to test results was highly valued by patients and appeared to increase patient engagement. However, it may lead to patient anxiety and increase rates of patient visits. We discuss how such unintended consequences can be addressed and larger implications for meaningful use criteria. © 2016 Pillemer et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.