Online communication proving elusive for primary care physicians

September 4, 2014

Although physicians need to interact with at least 5% of their patients electronically in 2014 to receive Meaningful Use Stage 2 (MU2) incentives, 42.7% of patients in a recent survey didn’t know if their primary care physician (PCP) had a patient portal.

Although physicians need to interact with at least 5% of their patients electronically in 2014 to receive Meaningful Use Stage 2 (MU2) incentives, 42.7% of patients in a recent survey didn’t know if their primary care physician (PCP) had a patient portal.

And in spite of growing adoption of electronic health records (EHRs), 40% of respondents still preferred to receive lab or diagnostic test results by phone.

TechnologyAdvice surveyed 430 patients who had seen their PCP within the last year. Fewer than half of patients (49.2%) report being shown a portal either during or outside of their visit.

A core objective of MU2 is that eligible providers (EPs) use secure electronic messaging to communicate with at least 5% of their patients on relevant health information, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.  Communication is defined as giving patients the ability to view, download or transmit their medical information, or send an online message to their provider.

It falls to physicians to promote their online portals and track their usage.

READ: EHRs may make patients leery about sharing information, study finds

Other key findings from the survey:

  • Patients age 18-24 prefer to schedule appointments online, while those 45 and older prefer phone scheduling. Patients aged 25-44 are split evenly between the two options.
  • 42.7% of patients prefer to receive test results over the phone, while only 18.1% prefer email, and 14.1% prefer online messages.
  • More than half of patients report that their physician did not follow up with them after their appointment.

The survey’s findings are in line with a previous report in Medical Economics showing that, while just over 50% of physicians could exchange secure electronic messages with patients, only about half of those actually did so.

While EHR adoption is growing, EPs are having a hard time achieving MU2. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in January that 78% of office-based physicians used any type of EHR system, and 48% of office-based physicians reported having a system that met the criteria for a basic system. But as of July 1, just 972 of 2,823 EPs had attested to MU2, according to the federal Health Information Technology Policy Committee.

Related:

CMS issues EHR meaningful use rule