Article Title

Preference for Immediate Release of Test Results Through a Patient Portal Differs by Demographics and Type of Results

Publication Date



survey research and methods, demographics, communication, patients, providers, engagement of stakeholders


Background: Electronic medical record (EMR) use has increased dramatically over the past 10 years on a national scale, and associated patient portals provide a direct and secure environment in which patients can receive information from their health care providers, leading to unprecedented advances in communication between providers and patients. While previous studies have shown patients are in favor of receiving test results through such portals, preferences specific to the type of result, and if these preferences change with certain patient characteristics, are unknown. The objective of this study was to determine differences in patient preferences for the release of test results through an EMR-associated portal.

Methods: A one-time email with a link to a survey through REDCap was sent to 10,015 randomly selected patient portal users. The survey had questions regarding the release of “regular” test results and the release of “sensitive” results (including genetic testing, sexually transmitted disease and biopsy results). Two weeks were allowed for survey completion. Variables assessed included age, race, sex, marital status, comorbidities, specialty and primary care physician visits, and insurance type. Analysis was performed in R software and statistical significance set at P < 0.05.

Results: The survey had a 13% response rate (n = 1,303). Most patients preferred their “regular” results released to them immediately (86%) while the remaining patients preferred a built-in automatic delay. Preferences regarding the release of “regular” results did not differ by patient characteristics. Only 59% of patients preferred “sensitive” results released immediately, with female patients more likely to prefer a delay in the release of sensitive results (odds ratio: 1.45; P = 0.01). Preference regarding release of “sensitive” results did not differ by other patient characteristics.

Conclusion: We found patient preference to vary with the type of result (regular or sensitive), but the only difference in preference specific to patient characteristic was that of female patients preferring a delay in the release of sensitive results. With the growing availability of patient-provider communication through EMRs and the importance of incorporating patient-centered approaches into health care, it may be advantageous to tailor the release of results to patient preferences, such as adjusting release by the type of result.




July 11th, 2017


August 10th, 2017