QIM21-091: Patterns of Health Portal Usage Among Patients With Cancer During the Year of Diagnosis: Results From the UWCCC Survivorship Program

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  • 1 University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, Madison, WI
  • | 2 University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, Madison, WI
  • | 3 Columbia University, New York, NY
  • | 4 UWHealth, Madison, WI

Background: Online patient portals are important tools to help patients with cancer participate in their health care processes. Portals provide patients with real-time access to their data, and actions such as communicating with providers, assessing medical exam results, and reviewing the medical plan can improve self-management of care. All of this may assist in managing health. It may be especially pertinent for patients with cancer considering the complexity of information and tasks to cope with, especially during diagnosis and active treatment. Thus, understanding how patients with cancer use portals is crucial to support care engagement. Our objective was to evaluate portal usage comparing cancer vs noncancer purposes. Methods: We evaluated portal usage, demographic, and cancer-related data from patients with solid tumors, seen between 2015 and 2019, at the Medical Oncology Departments of a comprehensive cancer center. Statistical analysis was performed with paired Wilcoxon rank-sum test. A p-value of 0.05 was considered statistically significant. The study was exempted from the Institutional Review Board review. Results: 5950 patients meet the inclusion criteria. Mean age was 64 (SD ±13), 54% (n= 3185) were female, 94% (n=5587) white, 72% (n=4271) resided in urban area (RUCC 1 - 3), and 44% (n=2595) were Medicaid/Medicare beneficiaries. Twenty seven percent (n=1620) had localized disease, 21% (n=1256) were metastatic. Nearly 34% (n=2052) of the population did not have an active account. The most common functionalities used by patients with an account, during the year following the diagnosis were “View past and upcoming visits”, “View results”, and “View and act on messages”, in descending order. Patients were less likely to send cancer messages compared to noncancer messages (P < 0.0001). Patients were also less likely to view results for cancer care purposes versus noncancer (P < 0.0001). Discussion: The volume of portal messages sent was low, as well as the percentage of tests viewed; even so, patients were less likely use portals to send cancer-related messages or view cancer-related tests. Moreover, over one-third of patients did not have an active account. Thus, designing portal features and functionalities to support cancer patient engagement and facilitate self-management of care is needed. Conclusion: Patient portals have a promising, but not well-explored potential to improve cancer patients’ self-management of care.

Corresponding Author: Amye J. Tevaarwerk, MD
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