Patients are using portals more than ever—and high adoption is linked to shorter hospital stays

Survey says: Most (92%) US residents say quick and easy access to their medical records is important. However, nearly half also have trouble accessing medical records from their patient portal (45%) or physician’s office (42%), per a new DrFirst survey of 1,023 US adult consumers.

The silver lining: Even though patients report trouble accessing their patient portals, more people than ever are using patient portals like Epic’s MyChart.

  • Nearly 40% of people accessed their medical records at least once, per a 2021 ONC report. That’s up from low adoption levels of patient portals in 2017, according to ONC.

What health execs are saying: Health execs want to prioritize investments in patient portals this year to boost communication and engagement.

  • Most health execs (77%) are investing in enhanced portals and mobile apps.
  • And more than 50% plan to invest in systems to engage with patients via texting (SMS), per Intrado Healthcare’s 2022 patient engagement trends survey.

Better engagement translates to savings: Patients who are active on their EHR portal are likely to have shorter average hospital stays. That’s good for hospital finances.

  • For example, COVID-19 patients who are active with their patient portals had shortened hospital stays (up to 1.1 days shorter).
  • And heart failure patients with an active portal shortened their stay by as much as 0.6 days, according to a recent data analysis from Epic’s Health Research Network.

Higher engagement with patient portals could be a silver lining for hospitals’ revenues. That’s because when patient stays are shorter, US health systems cut costs considerably. The average hospital stay could run up to $11,700 with Medicare, per

Medicare’s prospective payment system (PPS) pays health systems the same amount for a patient's four-day stay or five-day stay, for instance. Any extra day means health systems have to shoulder the cost themselves.