Use of patient portals and electronic visits had no significant impact on the frequency of face-to-face primary care visits for adults in a trial, researchers from the Mayo Clinic have found.

In a study published in the March issue of Telemedicine and e-Health, researchers looked at 2,357 primary-care patients who used electronic messaging on a patient portal. The study’s authors took into account face-to-face appointment frequencies before and after the first message in a matched-pairs analysis.

Primary-care patients who sent a minimum of one message did not have a significant amount of face-to-face visit before and after doing so. More analysis showed that there was no significant change in visit frequency among patients with higher message utilization, or for patients who had been using the message feature for longer.

The researchers also noted a surge of messages around the time of the first face-to-face visit, usually symptom-related.

“No significant change in face-to-face visit frequency was observed following implementation of portal messaging,” the authors said. “Secure messaging and e-visits through a patient portal may not result in a change of adult primary care face-to-face visits.”

As reported in January, the easy access to patient information that portals provide also comes with some sticky HIPAA privacy issues, including how much information teens’ parents should be allowed to view.

Research reported that same month, however, found that diabetic patients who used a patient portal to refill their prescription cholesterol medication improved their medication adherence and cholesterol levels compared with those who never used the portal.

The market for patient portal technology is expected grow significantly over the next five years to $898.4 million in 2017, according to analysis published last fall by Frost & Sullivan.
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