Adopting Patient Portals in Hospitals: Qualitative Study

Pauline Hulter, Bettine Pluut, C. (Christine) Leenen-Brinkhuis, M de Mul, Kees Ahaus, Anne Marie Jansen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Background: Theoretical models help to explain or predict the adoption of electronic health (eHealth) technology and illustrate the complexity of the adoption process. These models provide insights into general factors that influence the use of eHealth technology. However, they do not give hospitals much actionable knowledge on how to facilitate the adoption process. Objective: Our study aims to provide insights into patient portal adoption processes among patients and hospital staff, including health care professionals (HCPs), managers, and administrative clerks. Studying the experiences and views of stakeholders answers the following question: How can hospitals encourage patients and HCPs to adopt a patient portal? Methods: We conducted 22 semistructured individual and group interviews (n=69) in 12 hospitals and four focus groups with members of national and seminational organizations and patient portal suppliers (n=53). Results: The effort hospitals put into adopting patient portals can be split into three themes. First, inform patients and HCPs about the portal. This communication strategy has four objectives: users should (1) know about the portal, (2) know how the portal works, (3) know that action on the portal is required, and (4) know where to find help with the portal. Second, embed the patient portal in the daily routine of HCPs and management. This involves three forms of support: (1) hospital policy, (2) management by monitoring the numbers, and (3) a structured implementation strategy that includes all staff of one department. Third, try to adjust the portal to meet patients’ needs to optimize user-friendliness in two ways: (1) use patients’ feedback and (2) focus on optimizing for patients with special needs (eg, low literacy and low digital skills). Conclusions: Asking stakeholders what they have learned from their efforts to stimulate patient portal use in hospitals elicited rich insights into the adoption process. These insights are missing in the theoretical models. Therefore, our findings help to translate the relatively abstract factors one finds in theoretical models to the everyday pragmatics of eHealth projects in hospitals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e16921
JournalJournal of Medical Internet Research
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2020
Externally publishedYes


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