Do Patients Really Want to Use Your Patient Portal?

male-patient-and-doctor-shutterstock_130170572In June of 2016, commissioned a survey conducted by Harris Poll of 2,025 adults aged 18 or older.  Of these adults, there were 1,736 who had both medical insurance and a primary care doctor. Respondents were sub-grouped, based on generational demographics:

  • Baby Boomers (55+)
  • Generation ‘X’ (35-54)
  • Millennials (18-34)

The survey included data on patients’ interest in wearables, telemedicine, and discharge care.  However, the primary theme was communication between healthcare providers and patients. You can see the full report here.

Overall, the preference continues to be to deal directly with healthcare providers either in person or via phone. The survey asked respondents which methods they use to schedule appointments.  Only 9% said they might use a portal.  Whereas 76% said they would schedule via phone and 23% would schedule in person.  Could this be a generational preference?  Based on the data, clearly not — as 74% of Millennials schedule via phone (though 13% said they had used a portal).

These same patterns hold up for checking for prescription refills (only 11% of respondents would use a portal to make this request) and to check if their insurance covers specific procedures / services (14% of respondents).

patient engagement solutions
There is more to hope for when it comes to getting test results (23% of respondents said they use a portal), and reviewing medical records (where 29% of patients use a portal).  But phone and in-person remain the preferred communication methods for patients looking for this information as well.

How comfortable are patients with these methods?  91% of respondents said they were satisfied with their primary care doctor.  Of those who had switched physicians in the past 10 years, 49% said it was because the doctor or the respondent had moved.

In summary, based on the results of the survey, it’s clear that the patient-physician relationship is personal.  And the preferred communication methods are personal too.

Pharmica Take – Patient Engagement Solutions

Many of our clients who have invested a lot in patient engagement solutions have focused a large amount of their resources on building out a patient portal for accessing data and scheduling appointments.  It’s not clear that patients are entirely on board with digitizing the relationship and taking the personal interaction out of patient engagement.

Companies focused on patient engagement solutions should ask “How might we…” achieve our goals in light of this survey data on preferred communication methods and habits. They should not just look at what others in the industry are doing and assume it will be of value to patients.

Building any innovative initiative should include a thorough check of assumptions and hypothesis testing before any major investments.  In the case of patient engagement, Pharmica recommends the use of non-functional prototyping and simple experiments with real patients using Design Sprints in order to validate the value and utility of a proposed approach.  A small investment up front will certainly lead to insights which course correct and refine your approach — and may lead to major breakthroughs in understanding or stoppping an ill advised investment before its made.