ABSTRACT [from journal]
Background: Patient-clinician communication, essential for favorable asthma outcomes, increasingly relies on information technology including the electronic heath record-based patient portal. For patients with chronic disease living in low-income neighborhoods, the benefits of portal communication remain unclear.
Objective: To describe portal activities and association with 12-month outcomes among low-income asthma patients formally trained in portal use.
Methods: In a longitudinal observational study within a randomized controlled trial, 301 adults with uncontrolled asthma were taught 7 portal tasks: reviewing upcoming appointments, scheduling appointments, reviewing medications, locating lab results, locating immunization records, requesting refills, and messaging. Half of patients were randomized to receive up to 4 home visits by community health workers. Patients’ portal use by activities, rate of usage over time, frequency of appointments with asthma physicians, and asthma control and quality of life were assessed over time and estimated as of 12 months from randomization.
Results: Fewer than 60% of patients used the portal independently. Among users, more than half used less than one episode per calendar quarter. The most frequent activities were reading messages and viewing lab results and least sending messages and making appointments. Higher rates of portal use were not associated with keeping regular appointments during follow-up, better asthma control, or higher quality of life at 12 months’ post intervention.
Conclusion: Patients with uncontrolled asthma used the portal irregularly if at all, despite in-person training. Usage was not associated with regular appointments or with clinical outcomes. Patient portals need modification to accommodate low-income patients with uncontrolled asthma.