An interesting study entitled “Patient portal messaging for care coordination: a qualitative study of perspectives of experienced users with chronic conditions” by Jennifer L. Hefner, Sarah R. MacEwan, Alison Biltz & Cynthia J. Sieck has highlighted the importance of secure asynchronous messaging as potentially the future of patient portals.
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Introduction to the Study
Patient portal secure messaging (asynchronous electronic communication between physicians and their established patients) allows patients to manage their care through asynchronous, direct communication with their providers. This type of engagement with health information technology could have important benefits for patients with chronic conditions, and a more thorough understanding of the use and barriers of secure messaging among this population is needed. The objective of this study was to explore how experienced portal users engage with secure messaging to manage their chronic conditions.
Results of the Study
Patients’ motivation for using messaging included the speed and ease of such communication and direct access to a physician. Messaging was used by patients as an extension of the office visit and supported coordination of care among providers as well as patient collaboration with family members or caretakers. Patients identified challenges to using messaging, including technological barriers, worry about uncompensated physician time spent responding to messages, and confusion about what constitutes an appropriate ‘non-urgent’ message.
Conclusions of the Study
This study highlights the potential of patient portal messaging as a tool for care coordination to enhance chronic disease self-management. However, uncertainty about the appropriate use of portal messaging persists even among experienced users. Additional patient training in the proper use of secure messaging and its benefits for disease self-management may help to resolve these concerns.