BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the capacity of the regular health care system, which is reflected in limited access to nonurgent care for patients who are chronically ill in the Dutch health care system. Nevertheless, many of them still depend on health care assistance to manage their illnesses. Patient portals are used to provide continued health care (remotely) and offer self-management tools during COVID-19 and potentially after. However, little is known about the factors influencing portal use and users' satisfaction among patients who are chronically ill during the COVID-19 pandemic.
OBJECTIVE: This study aims to examine predictors of patient portal use among patients who are chronically ill, the willingness to recommend the portal to others, and the likelihood of future use among portal nonusers.
METHODS: An online self-administered questionnaire was distributed among patients who are chronically ill via social media in May 2020. The questionnaire consisted of four parts: (1) demographics including age and hours of daily internet use; (2) physical health status including COVID-19 infection, perceived level of control, and hospital visits; (3) mental health status including depression and life satisfaction; and (4) portal use including response waiting time and awareness. Descriptive, correlation, univariate, and multivariate analyses were conducted to identify factors that affect portal use, users' willingness to recommend, and nonusers' likelihood of future portal use.
RESULTS: A total of 652 patients responded, and 461 valid questionnaires were included. Among the 461 patients, 67% (n=307) were identified as patient portal users. Of the nonusers, 55% (85/154) reported not being aware of the existence of a patient portal at their hospital. Significant predictors of portal use include level of control (P=.04), hospital visit time (P=.03), depression scale (P=.03), and status of life satisfaction (P=.02). Among portal users, waiting time to get a response via the portal (P<.001) and maximum acceptable waiting time (P<.001) were the strongest predictors for willingness to recommend the portal; among nonusers, the model predicted that those who were not aware of patient portals (P<.001) and were willing to wait moderately long (P<.001) were most likely to use the portal in the future.
CONCLUSIONS: This study provides insights into factors that influence portal use and willingness to recommend, based on which health care providers can improve the adoption of patient portals and their services. It suggests that health care providers should leverage efficient operations management to improve responsiveness and reduce waiting time to enhance user satisfaction and willingness to recommend use. Health care organizations need to increase portal awareness among nonusers and train their patients to increase both use and longer adoption of patient portals. Factors including depression and life satisfaction can influence portal use; therefore, future studies on determinants of portal use and nonuse in this specific population are needed.