A survey by Nashville-based technology consultancy Technology Advice reveals almost half of patients don't even know if their physician has a patient portal--and that patients still prefer a mix of online and telephone communications from their providers.

Nearly 40 percent of patients are unsure if their primary care physician has a patient portal web site available, while another 11 percent are confident their physician “does not” offer one. In all, less than half of the 430 patients surveyed--49.2 percent--report actually being shown a patient portal by their primary care physician either during a visit or outside a visit.

Nearly 43 percent of patients say they prefer that doctors contact them by phone for general communication and to provide test results. These preferences are true even for the 18-24 age group, though the younger respondents did report a greater preference for scheduling appointments online.

A lack of follow-up from doctors also appears to be impacting patient portal awareness. Fewer than half of respondents report receiving follow-up contact from their doctor (not counting payment or billing notifications), and only 9.1 percent of those follow-ups occurred through a patient portal.

“With incentives tied to digital patient engagement and a general shift to integrated platforms taking place, all signals point to patient portals becoming increasingly prominent in the patient-physician relationship. However, it appears many physicians are not doing enough to educate patients about their portals and provide incentives for their use,” said TechnologyAdvice editorial coordinator Cameron Graham, who authored the study. “This lack of patient portal awareness appears to be slowing down a significant digital switch in patient-physician communication, considering the study also shows there is little change in the way patients prefer to interact with their doctors.”

The full study is available here.

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