Article Title

Response to Survey Solicitation to Patient Portal Members Differs by Age, Race, and Health Care Utilization

Publication Date



survey research and methods, demographics, sampling, communication, patients, providers


Background: Health care systems are increasingly utilizing electronic medical record-associated patient portals to facilitate communication with patients and between providers and their patients. These patient portals are growing in recognition as potentially valuable research tools. However, while there is much known about the demographics of patients who are portal members (older, white), not much is known about which portal members respond to surveys solicited within that specific population. Therefore, the objective of this study was to determine the demographics of patient portal users who respond to a survey request.

Methods: A one-time email with a link to a survey through REDCap was sent to 10,015 randomly selected MyChart users. This survey included questions regarding the timing of the release of both routine and potentially sensitive (eg, biopsy, genetic or sexually transmitted disease) test results. Two weeks were allowed for survey completion.

Results: The survey had a 13% response rate (n = 1,303), which varied by several demographic characteristics. Specifically, the adjusted odds ratios indicated that, on average, a 10-year increase in age corresponds with higher odds of responding to the survey (odds ratio [OR]: 1.40; P < 0.001). Race was a significant factor, as users self-identified as black (OR: 0.50; P < 0.001) and other (OR: 0.74, P < 0.001) races were less likely to respond than those self-identified as white. Patients who averaged more than one visit to a specialist per year over the last 2 years were more likely to respond than those who averaged one or fewer visits (OR: 1.32, P < 0.001), with similar results for primary care provider visits (OR: 1.22; P = 0.02).

Conclusion: We found that there are demographic differences in respondents to a survey solicited to a random sample of active patient portal users. Respondents tended to be older, white and more frequent users of care from both specialist and primary care physicians. Patient portals are potentially valuable tools for research; however, it is important to understand that respondents to surveys solicited to this sampling frame may not be entirely representative and that additional approaches to engage a wide range of participants are likely necessary.




June 30th, 2017


August 10th, 2017