Acute Care Patient Portal Intervention: Portal Use and Patient Activation

J Med Internet Res. 2019 Jul 18;21(7):e13336. doi: 10.2196/13336.


Background: Patient-facing health information technology (HIT) tools, such as patient portals, are recognized as a potential mechanism to facilitate patient engagement and patient-centered care, yet the use of these tools remains limited in the hospital setting. Although research in this area is growing, it is unclear how the use of acute care patient portals might affect outcomes, such as patient activation.

Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the use of an acute care patient portal and investigate its association with patient and care partner activation in the hospital setting.

Methods: We implemented an acute care patient portal on 6 acute care units over an 18-month period. We investigated the characteristics of the users (patients and their care partners) of the patient portal, as well as their use of the portal. This included the number of visits to each page, the number of days used, the length of the user's access period, and the average percent of days used during the access period. Patient and care partner activation was assessed using the short form of the patient activation measure (PAM-13) and the caregiver patient activation measure (CG-PAM). Comparisons of the activation scores were performed using propensity weighting and robust weighted linear regression.

Results: Of the 2974 randomly sampled patients, 59.01% (1755/2974) agreed to use the acute care patient portal. Acute care patient portal enrollees were younger, less sick, less likely to have Medicare as their insurer, and more likely to use the Partners Healthcare enterprise ambulatory patient portal (Patient Gateway). The most used features of the acute care patient portal were the laboratory test results, care team information, and medication list. Most users accessed the portal between 1 to 4 days during their hospitalization, and the average number of days used (logged in at least once per day) was 1.8 days. On average, users accessed the portal 42.69% of the hospital days during which it was available. There was significant association with patient activation on the neurology service (P<.001) and medicine service (P=.01), after the introduction of HIT tools and the acute care patient portal, but not on the oncology service.

Conclusions: Portal users most often accessed the portal to view their clinical information, though portal usage was limited to only the first few days of enrollment. We found an association between the use of the portal and HIT tools with improved levels of patient activation. These tools may help facilitate patient engagement and improve outcomes when fully utilized by patients and care partners. Future study should leverage usage metrics to describe portal use and assess the impact of HIT tools on specific outcome measures in the hospital setting.

Keywords: inpatients; patient activation; patient participation; patient portals; patient-centered care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation / methods*
  • Patient Portals / standards*
  • Patient-Centered Care / methods*