The Impact of Digital Patient Portals on Health Outcomes, System Efficiency, and Patient Attitudes: Updated Systematic Literature Review

J Med Internet Res. 2021 Sep 8;23(9):e26189. doi: 10.2196/26189.


Background: Patient portals are becoming increasingly popular worldwide even though their impact on individual health and health system efficiency is still unclear.

Objective: The aim of this systematic review was to summarize evidence on the impact of patient portals on health outcomes and health care efficiency, and to examine user characteristics, attitudes, and satisfaction.

Methods: We searched the PubMed and Web of Science databases for articles published from January 1, 2013, to October 31, 2019. Eligible studies were primary studies reporting on the impact of patient portal adoption in relation to health outcomes, health care efficiency, and patient attitudes and satisfaction. We excluded studies where portals were not accessible for patients and pilot studies, with the exception of articles evaluating patient attitudes.

Results: Overall, 3456 records were screened, and 47 articles were included. Among them, 11 studies addressed health outcomes reporting positive results, such as better monitoring of health status, improved patient-doctor interaction, and improved quality of care. Fifteen studies evaluated the impact of digital patient portals on the utilization of health services with mixed results. Patient characteristics were described in 32 studies, and it was reported that the utilization rate usually increases with age and female gender. Finally, 30 studies described attitudes and defined the main barriers (concerns about privacy and data security, and lack of time) and facilitators (access to clinical data and laboratory results) to the use of a portal.

Conclusions: Evidence regarding health outcomes is generally favorable, and patient portals have the potential to enhance the doctor-patient relationship, improve health status awareness, and increase adherence to therapy. It is still unclear whether the use of patient portals improves health service utilization and efficiency.

Keywords: digital health; health care efficiency; health outcomes; health service research; patient attitudes; patient portal; patient satisfaction.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Portals*
  • Physician-Patient Relations