The study, entitled “Patient Portals and Patient Engagement: A State of the Science Review” moved from two ambitious and tremendously useful goals: to (1) present the definition, background, and how current literature addresses the encouragement and support of patient engagement through the patient portal, and (2) provide a summary of future directions for patient portal research and development to meaningfully impact patient engagement.
The authors analyzed 120 studies focused on patient experience and/or ways that patients may be supported to make competent health care decisions and act on those decisions using patient portal functionality. These studies were selected on the basis of a systematic search of the scientific literature from 2006 through 2014 in PubMed, Ovid Medline, and PsycInfo using the search terms “patient portal” OR “personal health record” OR “electronic personal health record”.
On the basis of the depth analysis of studies retrieved, authors conclude that “current research has demonstrated that patients’ interest and ability to use patient portals is strongly influenced by personal factors such age, ethnicity, education level, health literacy, health status, and role as a caregiver“. Furthermore authors state that “health care delivery factors, mainly provider endorsement and patient portal usability, also contribute to patients’ ability to engage through and with the patient portal“. Finally authors highlight that “the perceived usefulness of patient portals from the providers’ perspectives cannot be underestimated” and that “adoption by patients and endorsement by providers will come when existing patient portal features align with patients’ and providers’ information needs and functionality“.
I completely agree with the authors’ conclusions and I thank them for their important job.
I would like to comment in particular on their last point: the importance of designing patients portals really aligned to patients’ needs and expectations. This is crucial. A depth understanding of how patients may engage with online portals along their healthcare management is the first ingredient to make e-health tools successful.
Patient engagement is a complex psycho-social phenomenon that evolves and changes with the time passing.
Healthcare professionals, designers, developers and policy makers have to get better aligned with patients need of engagement and need to understand what is patients’ level of ability to engage with their healthcare systems their health management.
We thus need to join efforts, insights, experiences…to achieve a truly “engagement sensitive” approach to the design of patients portals and of e-health tools. We need to agree on assessment tools able to support our understanding of our patients’ engagement needs. We also need to better collaborate among us to set shared criteria for assessing the impact of our strategies (such as patients portals) in sustaining patient engagement. Only in this way technological innovations well be really able to be “disruptive” and to promote a “smarter healthcare”.