Diabetic patients who used patient portals to refill medications increased their medication adherence and improved their cholesterol levels, according to a new study in the journal Medical Care. According to the study, medication non-adherence and poorly controlled cholesterol declined by 6 percent among exclusive users of the online refill function, compared to occasional users or non-users, PRNewswire reports.
The results are promising given the mixed commentary surrounding the effectiveness of using patient portals as a meaningful tool for patient engagement.
The study is part of a body of research to better understand how Kaiser Permanente’s online patient portals can improve care.
The National Institutes of Health funded researchers from Kaiser Permanente and the University of California, San Francisco Medical School to follow 17,760 patients with diabetes who received care from Kaiser Permanente in Northern California between January 2006 and December 2010. All patients were registered users of Kaiser Permanente’s personal health record, My Health Manager
Patients were divided into three groups based on their use of the portal to order refills of their cholesterol-lowering medications:
- the control group included those who never used the online refill function
- “occasional users,” who requested medication refills through the Kaiser Permanente patient portal at least once (but not always)
- “exclusive users” who requested all of their refills through the patient portal.
The cholesterol-lowering medications in the study are widely prescribed for patients with diabetes.
The average age of the diabetic patients was 62, and 40 percent were non-white minorities. The diabetes patients studied had an average of more than six chronically used medications and 11 outpatient visits per year.
“This research is an important step in understanding the benefits of portals beyond convenience,” said lead author Urmimala Sarkar, MD, an assistant professor at University of California San Francisco. “Given the clear connection between medication adherence and improved health outcomes, this study provides insight into how online portals may improve health outcomes.”
Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use requires that at least 5 percent of patients view, download, and transmit their health information and send a secure electronic message to their provider.