Patient and Provider Experience of Electronic Patient Portals and Secure Messaging in Mental Health Treatment

Telemed J E Health. 2022 Feb;28(2):189-198. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2020.0395. Epub 2021 Apr 21.


Objective: Electronic health record patient portals were promoted to enhance patient engagement. However, organizations often deny patient access to records of treatment for mental health disorders. This study explores patient and provider experience of patient electronic access to the mental health treatment record and the use of secure messaging. Materials and Methods: Online surveys of a sample of mental health patients (N = 168) and providers (N = 80) addressed their experience using patient portals and secure messaging. Results: Only 29 of the 80 providers (36%) worked at organizations which provided patients electronic access to mental health records. Of these 29 providers, 72% endorsed that patients requested a change in the provider note, 69% endorsed patients asked more questions, 55% endorsed patients reported they experienced significant distress after accessing portal, and 21% reported patients engaged in negative and/or self-destructive behavior toward themselves or others. Of patients with access to mental health notes (N = 37), 86% endorsed that they gained a better understanding of what was discussed in the appointment, 84% trusted their health care provider more, 76% felt comforted or relieved after reading their health information, and 57% reported they were better able to take medications as prescribed. Both patients and providers enjoyed the efficiency of secure messaging. Open-text responses are also presented. Conclusions: The implementation of electronic access to mental health notes requires a transition from viewing the medical record as the exclusive tool of providers to that of a collaborative tool for patients and providers to achieve treatment goals.

Keywords: electronic health records; mental health; patient engagement; patient portals; personal health records; secure messaging; telehealth; telemedicine.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Electronic Health Records
  • Electronics
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Patient Participation
  • Patient Portals*