Engaging Diverse Patients in Using an Online Patient Portal (California)

Project Final Report (PDF, 266.4 KB) Disclaimer

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Engaging Diverse Patients in Using an Online Patient Portal - Final Report

Lyles C. Engaging Diverse Patients in Using an Online Patient Portal - Final Report. (Prepared by the University of California, San Francisco under Grant No. R00 HS022408). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, 2019. (PDF, 266.4 KB)

The findings and conclusions in this document are those of the author(s), who are responsible for its content, and do not necessarily represent the views of AHRQ. No statement in this report should be construed as an official position of AHRQ or of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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A National Web Conference on Effective Design and Use of Patient Portals and their Impact on Patient-Centered Care

Event Details

  • Date: March 23, 2017
  • Time: 2:30pm to 4:00pm
This Web Conference discussed effective design and use of patient portals for improving patient-centered care delivery. Presenters presented findings from evaluations on design and use of patient portals among varied populations and settings, and their impact on patient engagement, diabetes self-management, and health care quality.
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Engaging Diverse Patients in Health Information Technology Use

This is a questionnaire designed to be completed by individuals with chronic care needs in patient homes. The tool includes questions to assess the current state of patient portals, the internet, and mobile devices.

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Engaging Diverse Patients in Health Information Technology Use (PDF, 250.11 KB) (Persons using assistive technology may not be able to fully access information in this report. For assistance, please contact Corey Mackison).
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Permission has been obtained from the survey developers for unrestricted use of this survey; it may be modified or used as is without additional permission from the authors.
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Providing patients managing chronic illnesses with online or in-person training may improve their use of online patient portals.

Project Details - Ended


Patient access to online patient portals has shown potential to improve efficiency of care and enable patients to better manage their health, particularly those who have chronic illnesses. These patients need ongoing support and care coordination outside of primary care visits to improve disease management and reduce complications. Lack of system support and education can be a barrier for patients to effectively use patient portals, especially patients traditionally not targeted by health technology dissemination efforts, such as low-income populations. The research team developed and implemented an interactive portal training curriculum, co-designed by patients, and assessed the impact of training on portal use in a safety net healthcare setting.

The specific aims of this research were as follows:

  • Design an online training program to educate diverse patients about using a patient portal. 
  • Conduct a randomized pilot trial of online training implementation. 

This research developed a training curriculum focused on assisting users in accessing the San Francisco Health Network’s (SFHN's) patient portal, called MySFHealth. The work was informed by 23 patients with chronic diseases and two caregivers with a range of experience in health technology. The research team conducted “think-aloud” interviews, collecting data to inform the development of an online tutorial. Two advisory groups consisting of patients, clinicians, and researchers met twice to review the content of the tutorial, ensuring appropriate and accurate information.

The team then conducted a randomized trial with patients with chronic diseases from two primary care clinics. Patients were randomized to either receive in-person training, or a link to access the online tutorial on their own. Portal enrollment and logins were measured 3 to 6 months post-training, along with patient reports regarding their skills and ability to use the website. While there were no differences in the rates of portal use for those with the in-person training versus the online tutorial, use of the portal was higher for those with any training versus usual care. This suggests that training can increase portal engagement.