Survey: MA members need a nudge to use records portals

Most health plans offer digital portals to their members, yet only half of Medicare Advantage members are aware of it or make use of them.

The survey was conducted for HealthMine, a Health Action as a Service company, by Dynata, which asked 800 Medicare Advantage (MA) members with a chronic condition about their patient portal usage and found that 45 percent of them were "not sure" if their plan offers digital access to a patient portal.

In addition, 18 percent reported "no access" to a patient portal. Together, these two groups show that nearly two-thirds of members believe they are not connecting to their medical records via a patient portal, HealthMine says.

By contrast, 30 percent said they can easily access their portal, and 7 percent said they can access their portal but "not easily," according to HealthMine.

Overall, 54 percent said they are interested in accessing their medical records, the survey found.

"The good news is almost all providers and plans in the healthcare system are offering patient portals for electronic medical record access,” says Nicole Althaus, vice president of member engagement products for HealthMine. “Not all Americans are taking advantage of this convenience. It's not only confined to Medicare beneficiaries. We know connecting patients to data in real time is the key to patients taking health actions to avert health care incidents."

HealthMine’s findings dovetail with the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging, conducted last year of adults ages 50 to 80. About half of them reported they had not set up a portal. According to that survey, the reasons senior citizens cited for not using their patient portals included: 40 percent do not like communicating about their health electronically; 38 percent said they have no need for it; 33 percent said they didn’t know they need to set up the portal; 29 percent said they haven’t gotten around to using the portal; 26 percent said they aren’t comfortable with technology; and 26 percent said their provider doesn’t offer a portal.

Authors of a study published in June in open access, peer-reviewed PLOS ONE, found that patient portals are effective in helping to keep patients healthy.

The study, entitled, “Patients with complex chronic conditions: Health care use and clinical events associated with access to a patient portal,” found that for patients with diabetes and other patients with multiple complex chronic conditions, using a patient portal helped to improve their self-management of their disease, aided in coordination of care, helped encourage more frequent visits with the doctor, and prevented visits to emergency departments.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.