Research Activities, February 2014

Resident, attending faculty physicians find patient portal experiences not what they expected

Health Information Technology

Expectations of residents and attending physicians prior to implementation of a patient portal varied significantly from the post-implementation reality, according to a new study. Patient portals provide secure electronic communications between physicians and patients, as well as patient access to selected parts of their electronic health record. They also sometimes allow patients to perform other functions (Emails to clinician, prescription refills, appointment scheduling, or viewing clinical laboratory or imaging results). The portal in this study was established in select general internal medicine and family and community medicine clinics at the University of Missouri Health System. 

Richelle J. Koopman M.D., M.S., David R. Mehr, M.D., M.S., and their colleagues at the University of Missouri–Columbia surveyed 39 residents and 43 attending physicians prior to portal implementation about the number of Emails received from patients in a typical month. They found that 68.4 percent of the residents, but only 9.3 percent of attending physicians reported receiving none. On the other hand, no residents, but 20.9 percent of attending physicians reported receiving more than 20 Emails in a typical month.

Attending physicians and residents typically agreed on statements about the likely impact of implementing a patient portal, except for significant differences on whether increased electronic communication with patients would hurt their clinical income (21 percent of residents vs. 43 percent of attending physicians agreed with the statement) and whether, given the choice, they would allow patients to view selected parts of their medical records (57 percent of residents vs. 81 percent of attending physicians would). 

After portal implementation, significantly fewer faculty physicians than before implementation agreed that electronic communications with patients would increase their workload (13 percent vs. 65 percent) or would decrease the number of phone calls from patients (27 percent vs. 82 percent). However, after implementation significantly more agreed that the portal would increase their professional satisfaction (33 percent vs. 0 percent). The study was funded in part by AHRQ (HS17035, HS17948). 

More details are in "Patient portal implementation: Resident and attending physician attitudes," by Lynn E. Keplinger, M.D., Drs. Koopman and Mehr, and others in the May 2013 Family Medicine 45(5), pp. 335-340.


Page last reviewed February 2014
Page originally created February 2014
Internet Citation: Resident, attending faculty physicians find patient portal experiences not what they expected. Content last reviewed February 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.