Measuring the Impact of Patient Portals: What the Literature Tells Us

Seth Emont, White Mountain Research Associates

A small but growing body of research shows how many patients are using portals, what their demographics are, and which features they are using. Little data links the use of portals with health care quality, long-term outcomes, or provider efficiency.

May 2011

Patient portals can offer important benefits to patients and to provider organizations. These technologies — particularly when integrated with an electronic health record (EHR) — have the potential to improve both quality and access to care through features that enable patients to communicate electronically and securely with their provider, access their medical records, schedule appointments, pay bills, and refill prescriptions.

This paper examines research documenting the implementation of patient portals and their impact on health care delivery. It is intended to inform the work of health care providers — particularly safety-net organizations — as they plan and implement patient portals and develop measurement strategies for assessing their impact.

Many research initiatives document patient-level measures such as the use of patient portal features, user demographics, and overall satisfaction with the portal. A limited number of studies bridge the gap between patient-level measures and long-term outcome measures, including health care quality indicators and operational efficiency.

Factors that point to future acceleration of patient portal use and impact measurement include the need to meet "meaningful use" requirements, a greater focus on patient- and family-centered care, and increased patient demand for health information technology.

The complete report is available as a Document Download.