Diabetics who used an online patient portal to refill medications increased their medication adherence and improved their cholesterol levels, according to a new study in the journal Medical Care.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded researchers from Kaiser Permanente and the University of California, San Francisco Medical School to follow 17,760 patients with diabetes who received care from Kaiser Permanente in Northern California between January 2006 and December 2010. Patients’ average age was 62, nearly half were non-white minorities, and they had an average of more than six chronically used medications and 11 outpatient visits per year.
Patients using the online portals were able to perform such tasks as scheduling appointments, accessing their health records, viewing their lab test results and emailing their care providers in addition to ordering prescription refills.
The study subjects were divided into three groups based on their use of the portal to order refills of their cholesterol-lowering medications: the control group included those who never used the online refill function; “occasional users,” who requested medication refills through the Kaiser Permanente patient portal at least once (but not always); and “exclusive users” who requested all of their refills through the patient portal. The cholesterol-lowering medications studied are widely prescribed for patients with diabetes.
Medication non-adherence and poorly controlled cholesterol declined by 6 percent among exclusive users of the online refill function, compared to occasional users or non-users.
All patients were registered users of Kaiser Permanente’s personal health record, My Health Manager, and had been prescribed cholesterol-lowering medications.
Internet-based patient portals, as well as the use of electronic medical records (EMRs), are becoming increasingly important to healthcare delivery, researchers say. The current study provides new evidence that patient portals may help patients adhere to their medications and achieve improved health outcomes.
Earlier this year Kaiser Permanente researchers reported that the use of electronic health records (EHRs) in clinical settings was associated with a decrease in ER visits and hospitalizations for patients with diabetes.
Source: Kaiser Permanente, January 6, 2014
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