Electronic Patient Portal Access, Retention in Care, and Viral Suppression Among People Living With HIV in Southeastern United States: Observational Study

JMIR Med Inform. 2022 Jul 25;10(7):e34712. doi: 10.2196/34712.


Background: Approximately 1.1 million people living with HIV live in the United States, and the incidence is highest in Southeastern United States. Electronic patient portal prevalence is increasing and can improve engagement in primary medical care. Retention in care and viral suppression-measures of engagement in HIV care-are associated with decreased HIV transmission, morbidity, and mortality.

Objective: We aimed to determine if patient portal access among people living with HIV was associated with retention and viral suppression.

Methods: We conducted an observational cohort study among people living with HIV in care at the Vanderbilt Comprehensive Care Clinic (Nashville, Tennessee) from 2011-2016. Individual access was defined as patient portal account registration at any point in the year prior. Retention was defined as ≥2 kept appointments or HIV lab measurements ≥3 months apart within a 12-month period. Viral suppression was defined as the last viral load in the calendar year <200 copies/mL. We calculated adjusted prevalence ratios (aPRs) and 95% CIs using modified Poisson regression with generalized estimating equations to estimate the association of portal access with retention and viral suppression.

Results: We included 4237 people living with HIV contributing 16,951 person-years of follow-up (median 5, IQR 3-5 person-years). The median age was 43 (IQR 33-50) years. Of the 4237 people living with HIV, 78.1% (n=4237) were male, 40.8% (n=1727) were Black non-Hispanic, and 56.5% (n=2395) had access. Access was independently associated with retention (aPR 1.13, 95% CI 1.10-1.17) and viral suppression (aPR 1.18, 95% CI 1.14-1.22).

Conclusions: In this population, patient portal access was associated with retention and viral suppression. Future prospective studies should assess the impact of increasing portal access among people living with HIV on these HIV outcomes.

Keywords: HIV; North America; United States; eHealth; human immunodeficiency virus; observational study; patient engagement; patient portal; retention in care; viral suppression.