OAKLAND, Calif. Patients with diabetes who used an online patient portal to refill medications increased their medication adherence and improved their cholesterol levels, according to a new study in the journal Medical Care.
Online patient portals allow users to perform tasks such as scheduling appointments, accessing their health records, viewing their lab test results and emailing their care providers in addition to ordering prescription refills.
The study followed 17,760 patients with diabetes who received care from Kaiser Permanente in Northern California between January 2006 and December 2010.
Medication non-adherence and poorly controlled cholesterol declined by 6 percent among exclusive users compared to the occasional users or non-users of the online refill function.
In this large sample of patients with diabetes, the average age was 62, and 40 percent were non-white minorities. The patients studied had an average of more than six chronically used medications and 11 outpatient visits per year.
"Medication adherence and other health behaviors are often the hardest things for a health care system to influence," said senior author Andrew J. Karter, PhD, research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, Calif. "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."
All patients were registered users of Kaiser Permanente's personal health record, My Health Manager, and had been prescribed cholesterol-lowering medications. The study subjects were divided into three groups based on their use of the portal to order refills of their cholesterol-lowering medications: the control group included those who never used the online refill function; "occasional users," who requested medication refills through the Kaiser Permanente patient porta
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