Patients with access to their online health information who received timely alerts about gaps in care were more inclined to receive preventative tests and screenings compared with patients who didn't use the service, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
Rates of preventive health screenings, chronic disease management tasks and vaccinations around the country remain low, according to the study. More than 20-80 percent of adults fail to obtain the health services they need.
"Making sure patients receive appropriate tests and screenings is a critical part of providing high-quality healthcare, but it can be challenging and time-consuming to get patients to follow through due to a variety of reasons,” the study’s lead author Shayna L. Henry, Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation, said in a statement.
The study found that 8.8 percent of patients who used an online portal were more likely to receive colorectal cancer screenings than those members who didn't, and online users were 11.9 percent more likely to complete their HbA1c testing than non-users.
Additionally, 9.1 percent of online users were more likely to visit providers for mammogram screenings, while 6.1 percent were more likely than non-users to receive a Pap smear. However, there was no noticeable difference between online and non-registered members when it came Patient access to health data, appointment reminders improve care gaps and patient engagement to receiving vaccinations.
Researchers analyzed the electronic health records of 838,638 Kaiser Permanente members in Southern California. Around 40 percent of these members use the online Patient Action Plan, or oPAP, a Web-based system launched in 2012 that provides access to personalized health information.
It also sends emails to members if they're in need of preventative care based on their last appointments for preventative screenings and specific health conditions, such as smoking and diabetes.
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“Our study demonstrates that by creating a customized and personalized communication to patients about their care needs, healthcare providers can directly engage patients and close important gaps in care, particularly for preventive screenings for cancer,” Henry said.
"Although the findings represent only a small segment of the overall KPSC membership and the effect sizes are modest," the study's authors said, "the results of the present study indicate the oPAP has considerable potential to be a model for cost- and resource-effective patient engagement in health maintenance and disease prevention."