The substantial expansion of secure messaging (SM) via the patient portal in the last decade suggests that it is becoming a standard of care, but few have examined SM use longitudinally. We examined SM patterns among a diverse cohort of patients with diabetes (N = 19 921) and the providers they exchanged messages with within a large, integrated health system over 10 years (2006-2015), linking patient demographics to SM use. We found a 10-fold increase in messaging volume. There were dramatic increases overall and for patient subgroups, with a majority of patients (including patients with lower income or with self-reported limited health literacy) messaging by 2015. Although more physicians than nurses and other providers messaged throughout the study, the distribution of health professions using SM changed over time. Given this rapid increase in SM, deeper understanding of optimizing the value of patient and provider engagement, while managing workflow and training challenges, is crucial.
Keywords: diabetes; electronic health record; longitudinal studies; patient portals; secure messaging.
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