Medicaid beneficiaries and health care providers questioned about patient portal usage

The Arkansas Department of Human Services’ Division of Medical Services (DMS) released the results of its 2016 Patient Engagement Satisfaction Survey, which included both patient and provider surveys. DMS contracted with AFMC, a National Committee for Quality Assurance- (NCQA) certified Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS®) survey vendor, to conduct the study. The two organizations are working together to develop patient engagement strategies to increase the use of health information technology (HIT) and patient portals by the state’s Medicaid population.

The patient satisfaction survey was mailed to 8,007 beneficiaries with equal representation from ConnectCare, ARKids First A and B, and the private option (soon to be Arkansas Works) health plans. The provider survey was emailed to 1,190 Arkansas health care providers. The analyzable sample size was 6,639 beneficiaries and 1,145 providers.

A large proportion of Medicaid beneficiary respondents indicated that their provider did not offer patient portals or that they were unaware of them; however, the overwhelming majority of responding providers reported they do offer patients portals. A patient portal is a secure online website that gives patients convenient, 24-hour access to their personal health information from anywhere there is an internet connection. “Patient portals, especially when part of an electronic health records system, let patients quickly communicate with their health care providers, see their medical records, get test results, refill prescriptions and schedule appointments,” said Dr. Chad Rodgers, chief medical officer of AFMC.  “This technology offers an efficient and secure way for patients to engage with their health care provider and assume a more active role in their own health and well-being.”

Of the beneficiary respondents who do use patient portals, 62.7 percent said they use the portal for office visit summaries and for viewing lab tests and results. Fewer than 10 percent of respondents use portals for making payments, asking billing questions or accessing educational materials. More than 38 percent indicated viewing lab tests and results was the most valuable use of the portal, followed by 17.5 percent selecting office visit summaries as the most valuable use.

Beneficiaries who have access to a patient portal through their provider but had never tried to use it were asked to indicate their reasons for not utilizing the portal. From a specified list of possible reasons, 31.4 percent of beneficiary respondents selected they are not interested in accessing their records electronically, 25.6 percent said they do not have access to the internet or a computer, and 22.7 percent reported they are concerned about online privacy and security.

Of providers surveyed, 86 percent of respondents reported their practice has achieved Meaningful Use

(MU) or are working on achieving MU of certified EHR technology. Nearly 80 percent of primary care respondents offer a patient portal in their practice. Smaller practices with no more than seven physicians (66%) are less likely to

use a patient portal than larger groups or hospital-affiliated groups (90%). More than 80 percent of provider respondents indicated that by their patients not using technology, this created an obstacle in the use of patient portals.

The full results of the 2016 Patient Engagement Satisfaction Survey can be found here.