Patients who refilled their prescriptions through an online patient portal had better medication adherence, a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association has reported.

Study investigators at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research looked at a group of patients with diabetes from Kaiser Permanente Northern California who had been using My Health Manager, their online patient portal. My Health Manager allows members to access their health information and tools, schedule appointments, refill prescriptions, and send secure messages with doctors. 

Patients in the study cohort were prescribed an average of seven medications. Their changes in drug taking patterns for statins with use of the online medication refill feature were evaluated by researchers. Medication adherence was calculated by using the percentage of time without statins based on the number of dispensed pills and the time in between refills.

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Researchers found that patients who consistently refilled their statins online had a 4% improvement in adherence across all racial and ethnic groups. Users of the online refill feature were younger and were taking more recurring medications than those who did not refill online; they also were more frequently accessing the patient portal at the onset of the study. African-American users were less likely to use the online refill tool, and all racial racial and ethnic minority groups had lower baseline statin adherence than white patients.

Senior author Andrew Karter, PhD, stated that study findings suggest “healthcare systems might experience modest improvements in medication adherence among patients simply by offering the option of refilling online.”

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