Online patient portals are associated with better health outcomes for diabetics

Patients who manage their medical tasks online, like scheduling appointments, refilling prescriptions and accessing health records, are more likely to have better medication adherence and improved cholesterol, according to a new study from Kaiser Permanente.

Researchers looked at 17,760 patients with diabetes who had received care from Kaiser in Northern California between 2006 and 2010. They found that offering patients the ability to streamline medical tasks through online portals was associated with better health outcomes.

"This research is an important step in understanding the benefits of portals beyond convenience," said lead author Urmimala Sarkar, MD, an assistant professor at University of California San Francisco. "Given the clear connection between medication adherence and improved health outcomes, this study provides insight into how online portals may improve health outcomes."

The future of healthcare delivery

Sarkar also said that medication adherence is one of the hardest things for the healthcare system to influence. The findings, he noted, suggest that Internet-based patient care systems can be beneficial even for older patients - the average age of the study participants was 62. Most people in the study were also taking about six medications and had an average of 11 outpatient visits per year.

"Offering patients the option of ordering prescription refills online may create efficiencies for pharmacy operations, convenience for patients, and also improvements in adherence and health," Sarkar said.

A study conducted by Kaiser last year also found that diabetic patients who use mail order pharmacies have fewer hospitalizations and trips to the emergency room.

Kaiser's latest study is published in the journal Medical Care.

Source: Kaiser Permanente

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