Impact of health portal enrollment with email reminders on adherence to clinic appointments: a pilot study

J Med Internet Res. 2011 May 26;13(2):e41. doi: 10.2196/jmir.1702.


Background: Internet portal technologies that provide access to portions of electronic health records have the potential to revolutionize patients' involvement in their care. However, relatively few descriptions of the demographic characteristics of portal enrollees or of the effects of portal technology on quality outcomes exist. This study examined data from patients who attended one of seven Duke Medicine clinics and who were offered the option of enrolling in and using the Duke Medicine HealthView portal (HVP). The HVP allows patients to manage details of their appointment scheduling and provides automated email appointment reminders in addition to the telephone and mail reminders that all patients receive.

Objective: Our objective was to test whether portal enrollment with an email reminder functionality is significantly related to decreases in rates of appointment "no-shows," which are known to impair clinic operational efficiency.

Methods: Appointment activity during a 1-year period was examined for all patients attending one of seven Duke Medicine clinics. Patients were categorized as portal enrollees or as nonusers either by their status at time of appointment or at the end of the 1-year period. Demographic characteristics and no-show rates among these groups were compared. A binomial logistic regression model was constructed to measure the adjusted impact of HVP enrollment on no-show rates, given confounding factors. To demonstrate the effect of HVP use over time, monthly no-show rates were calculated for patient appointment keeping and contrasted between preportal and postportal deployment periods.

Results: Across seven clinics, 58,942 patients, 15.7% (9239/58,942) of whom were portal enrollees, scheduled 198,199 appointments with an overall no-show rate of 9.9% (19,668/198,199). We found that HVP enrollees were significantly more likely to be female, white, and privately insured compared with nonusers. Bivariate no-show rate differences between portal enrollment groups varied widely according to patient- and appointment-level attributes. Large reductions in no-show rates were seen among historically disadvantaged groups: Medicaid holders (OR = 2.04 for nonuser/enrollee, 5.6% difference, P < .001), uninsured patients (OR = 2.60, 12.8% difference, P < .001), and black patients (OR = 2.13, 8.0% difference, P < .001). After fitting a binomial logistic regression model for the outcome of appointment arrival, the adjusted odds of arrival increased 39.0% for portal enrollees relative to nonusers (OR = 1.39, 95% CI 1.22 - 1.57, P < .001). Analysis of monthly no-show rates over 2 years demonstrated that patients who registered for portal access and received three reminders of upcoming appointments (email, phone, and mail) had a 2.0% no-show rate reduction (P < .001), whereas patients who did not enroll and only received traditional phone and mail reminders saw no such reduction (P < .09).

Conclusions: Monthly no-show rates across all seven Duke Medicine clinics were significantly reduced among patients who registered for portal use, suggesting that in combination with an email reminder feature, this technology may have an important and beneficial effect on clinic operations.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Appointments and Schedules*
  • Electronic Mail*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Medical Informatics*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Reminder Systems*