MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Shayna L. Henry, PhD
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Department of Research & Evaluation
Kaiser Permanente Southern California
Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Dr. Henry: In this study, we analyzed the electronic health records of 838,638 Kaiser Permanente members in Southern California. We decided to conduct this study because Kaiser Permanente always strives to advance standards of excellence for care, and even with all the outreach resources available to health care providers and staff, gaps in preventive care still arise. It can be hard to get patients engaged in managing their preventive care, because there are so many tasks for them to keep track of – many of which don’t happen on a very regular basis. Online patient portals have been very useful at helping patients get more engaged in their care, but patients still have to make the first move, and put all the pieces together. Our tool, the Online Personal Action Plan (oPAP), puts our members’ health status and preventive and chronic care tasks in a single dashboard, and alerts them via email to their upcoming care needs, prompting them to log in, view their upcoming health care tasks such as annual vaccinations, tests and blood draws for chronic conditions, and routine cancer screenings, and make the necessary medical appointments to close those gaps in care. We wanted to better understand if having access to the oPAP tools was associated with a higher likelihood of taking care of those outstanding health care tasks in a timely manner.
We found that members who used oPAP were more likely to get a mammogram, Pap smear, receive colorectal cancer screenings, and more likely to complete HbA1c testing for diabetes within 90 days of their coming due compared to members who were not registered on our patient portal.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Henry: The takeaway message for patients is that oPAP is an effective tool to engage in and manage their care. Clinicians should know that the oPAP appears to be an efficient and cost-effective way to improve outreach for preventive and chronic health care tasks.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Henry: Access to the oPAP was associated with higher rates of successful engagement in preventive care tasks, but the size of this effect was different for different tasks. It would be a good idea to examine if these kinds of targeted tools are more useful for certain aspects of preventive care than others. Also, we controlled for a number of patient-level factors in our analyses, including age, gender, ethnicity, and other clinical factors, but there were many differences in oPAP access and utilization in these different groups. Future studies might explore whether and how different groups of patients access these online tools. Additionally, while the dashboard itself is a fairly low-cost enterprise, it would be interesting to know if tools like the oPAP are associated with cost savings.
Medical Research: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Dr. Henry: We’re excited about the possibilities of the oPAP. At Kaiser Permanente, we are constantly making improvements to the tools, and adding new specialized features for different patient groups and different healthcare management tasks. The oPAP has amazing potential to increase patient engagement and improve preventive care, and we’re eager to learn more about how best to use these tools to help our members stay healthy.
Shayna L. Henry, PhD (2016). Online Health Portals Linked To Better Adherence To Preventive Care