Nearly every healthcare facility in the country has an online portal where patients can login to see updated copies of their health records as well as important reminders. It’s also usually one of the fastest ways for patients to reach their provider if they have a question about their health.
A new study shows that COVID-19 patients with active online portals tend to get out of the hospital faster than those that don’t. That’s sure to come in handy as the new omicron variant continues to spread around the world. The authors of the study looked at hospital admission rates before and during the pandemic and the results speak for themselves.
Patients can use patient portals to manage their healthcare online. They can send messages to providers, schedule appointments, refill their prescriptions, and self-report their symptoms without leaving home.
Denise Rasmussen, a registered nurse and the lead clinician on the study, said that online patient portals are often the best choice for those recovering outside of the hospital, including those with chronic conditions and COVID-19. She said hospitals and facilities can feel more confident when discharging a patient knowing they can communicate with them and monitor their condition from home using the patient portal.
The study, published by the Epic Health Research Network, used data collected between 2017 and 2021 with a specific focus on COVID-19 and heart failure. Authors evaluated patients that had used the app MyChart within the last two weeks.
The results show that patients with an active MyChart left the hospital, on average, a half-day or full day sooner than those that didn’t use the app. The difference was more pronounced among COVID-19 patients than those with heart failure. Patients with COVID-19 and an active patient portal left the hospital up to a half-day sooner.
Rasmussen points out that this may have to do with how COVID-19 is treated. A COVID-19 patient’s length of stay can vary widely based on their age, condition, and the treatment method.
In contrast, providers have a clear treatment plan when caring for patients with heart failure.
The largest reduction (just over a full day) was among COVID-19 patients ages 65 to 74. This age group also saw the largest reduction when it came to heart failure.
Meanwhile, the smallest reduction (just a tenth of a day) was reported among COVID patients ages 85 and older, which shows that technology might not make that much of a difference when treating this age group for COVID-19.
Rasmussen admitted that she wasn’t surprised by the results of the study, considering several others have proven this trend. “It really represents how a much more engaged patient tends to have better outcomes overall,” she said.
She added that she and her team chose to focus on COVID-19 due to the high volume of cases over the last twenty months. This information can also help providers reduce patient length of stays during the pandemic, especially when faced with the new omicron variant.
They chose heart failure because it is one of the most common diagnoses when admitting patients to the hospital.
The results also indicate that patients with active portals may also be more engaged with their overall health.
However, the study didn’t account for additional factors, such as internet reliability. Rasmussen said her team will conduct several follow-up studies to account for these variables.
The pandemic is far from over. Cases are rising in many states, primarily in the Upper Midwest and Northeast. We could be facing another surge of COVID-19 in the months to come. Encourage your patients to sign up for and use your network’s patient portal before they wind up in the hospital to reduce their length of stay.