Patient portals offer patients access to their medical information and tools to communicate with health care providers. It has been shown that patient portals have the potential to positively impact health outcomes and efficiency of health care. It is therefore important that health care organizations identify the patients who use or do not use the patient portal and explore the reasons in either case. The Unified Theory of Acceptance and Use of Technology (UTAUT) is a frequently used theory for explaining the use of information technology. It consists of the following constructs: performance expectancy, effort expectancy, social influence, facilitating conditions, and behavioral intention to use.
This study aimed to explore the prevalence of patient portal use and the characteristics of patients who use or do not use a patient portal. The main constructs of UTAUT, together with demographics and disease- and care-related characteristics, have been measured to explore the predictive factors of portal use.
A cross-sectional study was conducted in the outpatient departments for adult patients of a university hospital in the Netherlands. Following outcomes were included: self-reported portal use, characteristics of users such as demographics, disease- and care-related data, eHealth literacy (modified score), and scores of UTAUT constructs. Descriptive analyses and univariate and multivariate logistic regression were also conducted.
In the analysis, 439 adult patients were included. Furthermore, 32.1% (141/439) identified as being a user of the patient portal; 31.2% (137/439) indicated as nonusers, but being aware of the existence of the portal; and 36.6% (161/439) as being nonusers not aware of the existence of the portal. In the entire study population, the factors of being chronically ill (odds ratio, OR 1.62, 95% CI 1.04-2.52) and eHealth literacy (modified score; OR 1.12, 95% CI 1.07-1.18) best predicted portal use. In users and nonusers who were aware of the portal, UTAUT constructs were added to the multivariate logistic regression, with chronically ill and modified eHealth literacy sum score. Effort expectancy (OR 13.02, 95% CI 5.68-29.87) and performance expectancy (OR 2.84, 95% CI 1.65-4.90) are shown to significantly influence portal use in this group.
Approximately one-third of the patients of a university hospital self-reported using the patient portal; most expressed satisfaction. At first sight, being chronically ill and higher scores on the modified eHealth literacy scale explained portal use. Adding UTAUT constructs to the model revealed that effort expectancy (ease of use and knowledge and skills related to portal use) and performance expectancy (perceived usefulness) influenced portal use. Interventions to improve awareness of the portal and eHealth literacy skills of patients and further integration of the patient portal in usual face-to-face care are needed to increase use and potential subsequent patient benefits.