If You Build It, Will They Come?

Posted on 3 Nov, 2017 |comments_icon 0|By Elizabeth

Remember the movie Field of Dreams? An Iowa farmer (played by Kevin Costner) is walking through his cornfield when he hears a voice whisper repeatedly, “If you build it, he will come.” He sees a vision of a baseball diamond in his field, decides to plow under his corn, and eventually conjures up Shoeless Joe Jackson and a team of legendary players who come back to life to play baseball again in his cornfield.

If only the patient portal game were that easy. Just because you build it, doesn’t mean patients will come. “It’s not quite the Field of Dreams we expected,” says William C. Reed, FCHIME, FHIMSS, a consultant with Huntzinger Management Group and a speaker at HIMSS17.

Overall, portal adoption rates have been poor, Reed observes, with less than 30 percent of potential users actually using portals in any capacity.

Ethnicity appears to impact portal adoption: portal users are predominantly non-minorities.

Interestingly, age and gender are less significant predictors of portal adoption, though portal users tend to slightly skew younger and female.

Practices striving to encourage portal use should know about the technology acceptance model (TAM), an information systems theory that models how users come to accept and use a technology, says Jon P. Burns, Senior VP and CIO, University of Maryland Medical System, who presented with Reed at the HIMSS17 session.

TAM says that two factors influence technology adoption:

  1. Perceived
  2. Perceived ease-of-use.

That your portal is useful and simple to use should be a given. But you must also take into account patients’ perceptions also.

Surprise! Your Older Patients Might Be Ready for Digital Patient Engagement

Think your older patients are less likely to interact with your practice via digital or mobile engagement solutions? Perhaps, but society is evolving rapidly, according to three HIMSS, Medscape®, and WebMD researchers who presented “Generational Factors in Patient Engagement” at HIMSS16.

The study examined patient engagement patterns among four generations:

  • The Silent Generation (born prior to 1942)
  • Baby Boomers (born 1943-1960)
  • Generation X (born 1961-1981)
  • Millennials (born 1982-2000)

Researchers used this working definition: “Patient engagement results when patients/caregivers receive information and support that they need in order to fully participate in their care.”

The Silent Generation is the least digitally engaged with their healthcare. They will register for patient portals if the doctor recommends them, though they don’t use them for much beyond checking their lab results. Surprisingly, 15 percent of this group is sporting wearables.

The Baby Boomers are engagement superstars, seeking it out not only for themselves, but often for their Silent Generation parents or for their Millennial children. They are proactive information seekers who are more likely than other age groups to look online to learn how other patients have rated your practice. They use portals for lab results (77 percent), communication with their providers (44 percent), refills (42 percent), and scheduling (38 percent).

Both groups value the doctor’s verbal instructions more than handouts or information on the Internet. But researchers recommend practices reinforce understanding with printed and digital materials newsletter from the doctor to increase engagement.

Digital health patterns among older Americans have changed quickly. They’ll likely continue to change as patients use their mobile devices to interact with airlines, hair salons, large health systems, and other services.

For more on patient portals—and to learn how to leverage your data for financial growth—pick up a copy of Unleash Your EHR’s Superpowers.



Elizabeth works on an array of projects at TCI, researching and writing about modern reimbursement challenges. Since joining TCI in 2017, she has also covered the nuts and bolts of cybersecurity, compliance with federal laws, and how to tap into the advantages of telehealth services.

More from this author

View More

Leave a Reply

Newsletter Signup