Background: Although electronic medical record (EMR)-tethered patient portals are common in other countries, they are still emerging in Canada.
Objective: We aimed to report user satisfaction and the effects of a patient portal on medical appointment attendance in a Canadian cohort of patients within our publicly funded health care system.
Methods: Two surveys were deployed, via email, at 2 weeks and 6 months following the first recorded patient portal access. Database audits of visit attendance were used to supplement and cross reference survey data.
Results: Between January 2016 and July 2018, 4296 patients accessed the patient portal. During the study, 28% (957/3421) consented patient portal users responded to one or more semistructured electronic surveys. Of respondents, 93% (891/957) reported that the patient portal was easy to use, 51% (492/975) reported it saved time when scheduling an appointment, and 40% (382/957) reported that they had to repeat themselves less during appointments. Respondents reported patient portal-related changes in health system use, with 48% (462/957) reporting avoiding a clinic visit and 2.7% (26/957) avoiding an emergency department visit. Across 19,968 visits in clinics where the patient portal was introduced, missed appointments were recorded in 9.5% (858/9021) of non-patient portal user visits, compared with 4.5% (493/9021) for patient portal users, representing a 53% relative reduction in no-show rates.
Conclusions: Early experience with an EMR-tethered patient portal showed strong reports of positive patient experience, a self-reported decrease in health system use, and a measured decrease in missed appointment rates. Implications on the expanded use of patient portals requires more quantitative and qualitative study in Canada.
Keywords: patient portal; patient satisfaction.
©Timothy A D Graham, Samina Ali, Melita Avdagovska, Mark Ballermann. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 19.05.2020.