Patient portal messages may not be an effective tool to encourage preventive care, according to a study by the University of California, Los Angeles. Researchers analysed more than 200,000 patients divided into three groups during the 2020-2021 flu season: those who received no portal message, those who received a message with a link to book an appointment, and those who received a message without the link. The researchers suggested text message patient outreach as an alternative, due to the multi-step process required to open and access portal messages.
Patient Portal Messages May Not Be Effective for Encouraging Preventive Care, But Text Message Outreach Could Be More Successful
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has found that the patient portal may not be effective in encouraging preventive care, as patients are not motivated to log in and open messages sent through the portal. The research team posits that text message patient outreach could be a more effective method of communication with patients.
As healthcare providers strive to encourage patients to get their flu shots, the UCLA researchers explored how the patient portal, which offers patients direct messaging and patient outreach in addition to access to their medical data, could help improve flu vaccination rates during the 2020-2021 flu season. The study examined over 200,000 patients and divided them into three groups: those who did not receive a patient portal message, those who received a message with a link to book an appointment, and those who received a message without a link to book an appointment.
Despite the fact that the study period ran from October 2020 to March 2021, the flu vaccination rate remained low at just 39 percent. Even among those who received direct messages with a link to schedule a flu shot appointment or pre-appointment reminders, the flu vaccination rate was still only 39.1 percent. The researchers found that after adjusting for sociodemographic factors, the patient portal messages did not have a significant impact on flu vaccination rates.
The researchers hypothesized that the patient portal may not be an intuitive or user-friendly method of communication for patients. While around 75 percent of patients within the UCLA Health system use the patient portal, patients still have to go through a multi-step process to open and access messages within the portal. The researchers suggest that text message outreach could be a more effective way of reaching patients, as text messages can be viewed immediately and do not require patients to log in to a patient portal or navigate to their inbox.
The study’s results may have been influenced by other factors, such as vaccine hesitancy and the fear of visiting medical facilities during the pandemic. Vaccine hesitancy, especially among certain populations, may have affected patients’ willingness to get flu shots. Additionally, many patients may have avoided medical facilities due to concerns about the risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Despite these possible factors, the study’s findings suggest that further investigation is needed to determine the patient portal’s efficacy as a method of patient outreach. The patient portal offers many benefits, such as its integration with electronic health records (EHRs). However, finding ways to directly push patient portal messages to patients’ text message inboxes could make the patient portal a more effective tool for patient engagement.
In conclusion, the UCLA study’s findings highlight the importance of choosing effective communication channels when encouraging patients to take preventive measures, such as getting their flu shots. While the patient portal offers many benefits, such as direct messaging and patient outreach, healthcare providers may need to consider other outreach methods, such as text messages, to improve patient engagement and encourage preventive care.