Patient portals prove prowess at Kaiser

Study shows how 'online portals may improve health outcomes.'
By Erin McCann
07:56 AM
Kaiser Permanente puts online portals to work for patients.

Patient portals have proven to be far more than just a convenient tool for patients to access their health information. These Web-based portals are also doing big things for improving care.  

For diabetic patients who accessed their online portal to refill medications, these care improvements translated to a significant increase in medication adherence in addition to an overall improvement in cholesterol levels, according to the findings of a new study.  

Researchers at the University of California San Francisco, University of Washington and Kaiser Permanente followed nearly 18,000 Kaiser patients with diabetes for five years and found those who requested statin refills exclusively via the patient portal decreased medication non-adherence by 6 percent. Patients who used the Internet-based portal also decreased their risk of high cholesterol levels by 6 percent.

Kaiser currently has 4.1 million of its 9.1 million members using its patient portal. 

[See also: Patient portals business means big money.]

"This research is an important step in understanding the benefits of portals beyond convenience," said study lead author Urmimala Sarkar, MD, assistant professor at University of California San Francisco, in a press statement. "Given the clear connection between medication adherence and improved health outcomes, this study provides insight into how online portals may improve health outcomes."

In this sample of diabetic patients included in the study, the average age was 62, and 40 percent were non-white minorities. The patients had an average of more than six chronically used medications and 11 outpatient visits per year.

"Medication adherence and other health behaviors are often the hardest things for a healthcare system to influence," said senior author Andrew J. Karter, research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, in a statement. "Offering patients the option of ordering prescription refills online may create efficiencies for pharmacy operations, convenience for patients, and also improvements in adherence and health."

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