Patient-provider communication: Does electronic messaging reduce incoming telephone calls?

Eve N. Dexter, Scott Fields, Rebecca E. Rdesinski, Bhavaya Sachdeva, Daisuke Yamashita, Miguel Marino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose: Internet-based patient portals are increasingly being implemented throughout health care organizations to enhance health and optimize communication between patients and health professionals. The decision to adopt a patient portal requires careful examination of the advantages and disadvantages of implementation. This study aims to investigate 1 proposed advantage of implementation: Alleviating some of the clinical workload faced by employees. Methods: A retrospective time-series analysis of the correlation between the rate of electronic patient- to-provider messages-a common attribute of Internet-based patient portals-and incoming telephone calls. The rate of electronic messages and incoming telephone calls were monitored from February 2009 to June 2014 at 4 economically diverse clinics (a federally qualified health center, a rural health clinic, a community-based clinic, and a university-based clinic) related to 1 university hospital. Results: All 4 clinics showed an increase in the rate of portal use as measured by electronic patientto- provider messaging during the study period. Electronic patient-to-provider messaging was significantly positively correlated with incoming telephone calls at 2 of the clinics (r = 0.546, P < .001 and r = 0.543, P < .001). The remaining clinics were not significantly correlated but demonstrated a weak positive correlation (r = 0.098, P = .560 and r = 0.069, P = .671). Conclusions: Implementation and increased use of electronic patient-to-provider messaging was associated with increased use of telephone calls in 2 of the study clinics. While practices are increasingly making the decision of whether to implement a patient portal as part of their system of care, it is important that the motivation behind such a change not be based on the idea that it will alleviate clinical workload.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)613-619
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Board of Family Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Communication
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Health Personnel
  • Information Systems
  • Internet
  • Motivation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Telephone
  • Workload

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Family Practice


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