Background: Health information technology (HIT) refers to the electronic health care systems organizations used to store, share and analyze healthcare information. A central component of the HIT infrastructure is an electronic health record (EMR) and although HIT has been shown to increase enthusiasm for patient care, decrease healthcare costs and improve patient outcomes overall utilization in the United States (US) remains low.
Methods: At an urban primary care pediatric office located in the southwestern US, an educational quality improvement project for healthcare practice providers and front office staff was conducted to increase the utilization of the existing EMR-linked patient portal. The healthcare providers were asked to complete a pre- and post- survey evaluation of their knowledge and usage of the patient portal. Provider and patient portal data usage was collected over a five-month period, September 2019 to January 2020.
Results: Data was analyzed using the Intellectus Statistics softwareTM. Significant results were found at the conclusion of the project in the number of active patient portal users, web-enabled, portal logins, labs published/viewed, messages sent, appointment reminders and Santovia utilization. At the end of the project no significance was found with messages received by the healthcare providers or staff through the patient portal. Survey results found significant differences between pre- and post- portal usage. No significance was found on providers’ knowledge on how to web-enable patients. Providers’ also demonstrated no significant change in their perceptions of the benefit in utilizing the portal in patient care after the educational intervention. Survey results allowed for additional analysis of commonly utilized portal functionalities, disease or health topics utilized in Santovia, and suggestions on how to make the use of the patient portal easier for providers.
Implications for Health Care Providers: This quality improvement project found that implementation an EMR-linked patient portal requires a comprehensive practice approach with structured education sessions. Including all employees can improve patient portal utilization. This educational project resulted in significant increases in most portal functionalities within 5 months. Further practice change evaluations are needed to evaluate how to improve patient portal utilization with a larger group of participants in a variety of outpatient settings.