Patients find online portals difficult to understand, study finds

The majority of patients find test results difficult to interpret when presented in online portals, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

The researchers — led by Traber D. Giardina, PhD, a researcher at Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and Baylor College of Medicine, both based in Houston — conducted 95 interviews with patients at four outpatient clinics to assess their experiences viewing test results via online portals.

The majority of patients (63 percent) did not receive any explanatory information or support interpreting their test results when they checked their online portal. Forty-six percent of patients proceeded to conduct online searches for additional information.

Patients who received abnormal results were more likely to call their physician than those who received normal results. However, some patients reported experiencing negative emotions even after receiving normal results.

"[The] study findings suggest that online portals are not currently designed to present test results to patients in a meaningful way," the study authors concluded. "Simply providing access via portals is insufficient; additional strategies are needed to help patients interpret and manage their online test results."

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