Patient Portals: Who is most likely to access their electronic medical records?

A number of practices are grappling with how to implement meaningful use objectives, including patients' access to their medical records.

A number of practices are grappling with how to implement meaningful use objectives, including patients’ access to their medical records. Some practices have chosen to offer open access to electronic medical records (EMRs) while others have places restrictions on certain portions, citing the rationale that patients do not have the education and training to fully understand the content of their medical records. Researchers at the Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center in Dallas surveyed 6,495 patients enrolled in MyChart from 2007 to 2012 to determine predictors and patterns of use of a Web-based portal for accessing their EMRs and communicating with their healthcare providers.

The median number of log-ins over the 5-year period was 57. The most common actions were viewing test results (37%), viewing and responding to clinic messages (29%), and sending medical advice requests (6.4%). Increased portal use was significantly associated with younger age, white race, and an upper aerodigestive malignancy (respiratory tract and the upper part of the digestive tract) diagnosis. Thirty-seven percent of all log-ins and 31% of all medical advice requests occurred outside clinic hours. Over the study period, the average number of patient log-ins per year more than doubled. The researchers concluded that in their population of patients, portal use is increasing and that younger patients, white patients, and patients with upper aerodigestive malignancies used the portal more frequently than other groups.


Gerber DE, et al. Predictors and Intensity of Online Access to Electronic Medical Records Among Patients With Cancer. Journal of Oncology Practice; 2014: 10(5): e307-e312.

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