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In-Person Patient Portal Training Raises Patient Satisfaction

New research findings have concluded that in-person patient portal training can boost patient portal use, consequently improving patient satisfaction and engagement.

Healthcare organizations can trigger improvements in patient satisfaction and engagement by providing in-person patient portal training to hospitalized patients, according to a study from the Ohio State University College of Medicine.

Patient portals are designed to grant patient access to their own medical information, lab and test results, history, clinician notes, and other key patient-facing features. This technology has shown benefits for patient engagement, satisfaction, and delivery of patient-centered care while potentially ameliorating gaps in patient data access.

“Inpatient portals empower patients by giving them access to clinical data such as test results, information about their care plan, and a way to communicate with doctors and nurses,” Ann Scheck McAlearney, ScD, MS, professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the Ohio State College of Medicine, said in a press release.

“Portal use supports a patient-centered care model where patients are more engaged and knowledgeable about their healthcare and feel valued as patients,” continued Scheck, who is also associate dean for Health Services Research at Ohio State College of Medicine and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. 

However, the patient-facing technology may not be able to live up to its potential if patients have barriers to patient portal use, such as limited digital health literacy.

The trial, published in JAMA Network Open, compared two levels of a training intervention, in-person training versus built-in video tutorial, and two levels of patient portal function availability within an inpatient portal.

The more than 2,800 patients were randomly placed in one of four groups: full technology and in-person training, full technology and video training, limited technology and in-person training, and limited technology and video training.

The in-person patient portal training was delivered by a technology navigator who reviewed the available functions with patients and supervised patients as they navigated tasks in the portal.

The alternative training option of video tutorials only provided an overview of available portal functionality based on whether the patient was given a full technology or limited technology portal. 

The complete technology portal allowed patients to access ten functions, which included on-demand food ordering, tutorials, patient education resources, care schedules, messaging with care providers, and the outpatient portal. The limited technology portal only allowed patients to access three functions: ordering food on demand, tutorials, and patient education resources.

“We found that patients who received personalized training accessed the portal more often and were more likely to be classified as comprehensive users than patients who only watched training videos,” McAlearney said. “Similarly, patients who had access to all functions in the inpatient portal used the devices more than patients with limited function access.”

Additionally, patients who received in-person training were more likely to report higher patient satisfaction in the six-month post-discharge survey and were more engaged in their care. Similarly, patients who were given more technology functions reported higher satisfaction and care involvement.

The increased care involvement might be linked to in-person training as it improves patients’ ability to use functions that inform them about their health status and care plan. This consequently could have enabled patients to ask more targeted questions, which could have increased their satisfaction post-discharge, the researchers suggested.

Although delivering in-person training is not cost-neutral, the findings may help inform decisions about whether a cost is justified.

The benefits of having an engaged patient with the aid of a patient portal can also improve health outcomes serving as another cause for in-person training investments.

A 2021 Epic’s Health Research Network found that patients with access to an active patient portal account had shorter average lengths of stay in the hospital.

The results showed that patients with an active patient portal account were hospitalized on average for one-half day to one full day shorter for both admission groups.

Researchers noticed that patients’ healthcare outcomes were impacted by how engaged patients were in their healthcare. 

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