Identifying the role of inpatient portals to support health literacy: Perspectives from patients and care team members

Patient Educ Couns. 2021 Apr;104(4):836-843. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2020.09.028. Epub 2020 Sep 23.


Objective: Health literacy is a fundamental contributor to an individual's ability to self-manage their health and appropriately use health care services. Tools that positively impact health literacy therefore have potential to improve health outcomes. Inpatient portals are a tool that provides patients an opportunity to cultivate health literacy skills during hospitalization. Our study investigated how inpatient portal use could impact attributes of health literacy.

Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 132 patients and 440 care team members to learn about patients' inpatient portal use. Interview transcripts were analyzed deductively and inductively to categorize data and understand emergent themes around health literacy.

Results: Patients and care team members identified inpatient portal functions that they perceived to positively impact health literacy. These functions included providing patients access to health information, care plans, and educational materials, as well as enabling patient communication with their care team.

Conclusion: Recognizing the potential of inpatient portals to improve health literacy is critical to ensure they are implemented in ways that leverage this benefit for patients.

Practice implications: Health care organizations should implement inpatient portals that include features that support health literacy and encourage patients to use these portals in ways that improve their health literacy skills.

Keywords: health information; health literacy; hospitalization; patient portals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Health Literacy*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Inpatients
  • Patient Care Team
  • Patient Portals*