(HealthDay News) — Patient portal use has a positive impact on preventive health behaviors, but not on chronic health outcomes, according to a study published in the October issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

Jing Huang, Ph.D., from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues quantified the impact of portal use on patients’ preventive health behaviors and chronic health outcomes in a retrospective observational cohort study of 10,000 patients aged 50 years or older.

The researchers found that between portal users (comprising about 59.32 percent of the cohort) and nonusers, there were substantial differences in patient-level characteristics. On average, compared with nonusers, users were more likely to be younger (63.46 versus 66.08 years) and white (72.77 versus 52.58 percent), have commercial insurance (60.99 versus 40.12 percent), and have higher annual incomes ($74,172 versus $62,940 per year). Patient portal use had a positive and clinically meaningful impact on patients’ preventive health behaviors, but not on chronic health outcomes after adjustment for these potential confounders.

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“This study is among the first to demonstrate that patient portal use is positively associated with patient preventive health behavior outcomes but not with chronic health outcomes,” the authors write. “These findings contribute to the understanding and quantification of the impact of patient portal use on patient health outcomes.”

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