HealthDay News — For patients with diabetes, use of a patient portal can increase engagement in outpatient visits, according to a study published online June 19 in PLOS ONE.

Mary E. Reed, Dr.P.H., from Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, and colleagues conducted an observational study involving 165,447 patients with diabetes from a large integrated delivery system that implemented a patient portal (2006 to 2007). The rates of outpatient office visits, emergency department visits, and preventable hospitalizations were compared with and without portal access for patients with diabetes only and for patients with multiple chronic conditions (diabetes plus asthma, congestive artery disease, congestive heart failure, or hypertension).

The researchers found that for both patients with diabetes only and those with multiple complex conditions, the rates of outpatient office visits were significantly higher with access to a patient portal. Portal use correlated with significantly fewer emergency department visits and preventable hospitals stays in patients with multiple complex chronic conditions (3.9 and 0.8 fewer per 1,000 patients per month, respectively). The results were directionally consistent but not statistically significantly associated with emergency department visits and preventable hospital stays for patients with diabetes only.

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“We interpret these findings as a signal that the portal may be helping to increase engagement in outpatient office visits, a preferable setting to potentially address otherwise unmet clinical needs, and thereby reducing downstream health events that lead to emergency and hospital care,” the authors write.

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