Trend Report: Patient Portal Adoption on the Rise

Date: November 13th, 2013Category: CORHIO e-NewsletterTopics: Meaningful Use, Patient Engagement

Meaningful Use and patient demand causing increased interest in patient portal technology.

The patient portal market is poised to skyrocket, according to new analysis released in September. The U.S. Patient Portal Market for Hospitals and Physicians: Overview and Outlook, 2012–2017 report  by  Frost and Sullivan cites a predicted 221 percent growth in the market to nearly $900 million by 2017. The report also found that half of U.S. hospitals and 40 percent of office-based physicians have a portal through their electronic health record (EHR) or practice management system. But many are not using that technology for various reasons, such as cost, interoperability or workflow issues and limited functionality, so they are seeking alternative options.

Why the Time is Right for Patient Portals

Patient portals are Web-based applications that enable direct communication between patients and their health care providers. Stage 2 of Meaningful Use requires “patients to electronically view, download and transmit electronic copies of their own medical records.” To meet Meaningful Use objectives, providers are not only required to implement a patient portal, they have to meet certain thresholds for patient utilization of the portal.

Not only are the Meaningful Use objectives driving patient portal adoption, patients are starting to demand this technology. People are busy and they want convenient online access to their records and health information – when they need it, not when the physician’s office is open. And they feel more loyalty towards providers who offer this convenience and technology. In fact, a recent study of U.S. adults found that 79 percent of patients would be more likely to return to a facility that offers a portal. Kaiser Permanente also released a study in 2012 that cited a strong tie between personal health records and patient loyalty. They found that patients with a Kaiser-supplied personal health record portal were 2.6 times more likely to stay with Kaiser.

How Patients Use Portals

Patients can use online health portals to access lab results, send secure emails to providers, schedule appointments, research their medical conditions and more. Some portals feature options that allow the patient to request prescription refills and ask questions of their provider. One popular feature of some patient portals is the ability to complete registration forms before their upcoming visit. This not only saves the patient time on the day of the visit, but it reduces errors from hard-to-read handwriting on the forms.

Some patient portals allow patients to create a “personal health record,” or PHR. This is a separate, but congruent, online health record that the patient manages and serves as a central location to store all their medical information. This differs from a provider’s electronic health record in that it may contain more comprehensive information that could be scattered around on separate providers’ systems.

Additionally, a PHR is also completely controlled by the patient. The patient may start out their PHR by completing an online health history form. However, for it to be useful it needs to be continually updated with new information when tests are done, new medications are added or discontinued, or after a provider visit. Ideally, the patient will share this information with their providers to inform better care. PHRs allow patients to take ownership of their health information and are especially helpful for people with chronic conditions or those who visit multiple providers. They can also be useful for parents or guardians involved in a loved one’s care.

How CORHIO Can Help

On behalf of Colorado health care providers and patients, CORHIO is currently partnering with experts to research and analyze options for affordable and customizable patient portals. If you would like more information on patient portal offerings, please contact CORHIO at or 720-285-3200.