A systematic review of studies of web portals for patients with diabetes mellitus
Patient web portals are password-protected online websites that offer patients 24-hour access to personal health information from anywhere with an Internet connection. Due to advances in health information technologies, there has been increasing interest among providers and researchers in patient web portals for use by patients with diabetes and other chronic conditions. This article, which is based upon bibliographic searches in PubMed, reviews web portals for patients with diabetes mellitus including patient web portals tethered to electronic medical records and web portals developed specifically for patients with diabetes. Twelve studies of the impact of patient web portals on the management of diabetes patients were identified. Three had a cross-sectional design, 1 employed mixed-methods, one had a matched-control design, 3 had a retrospective cohort design, and 5 were randomized controlled trials. Six (50%) of the studies examined web portals tethered to electronic medical records and the remainder were web portals developed specifically for diabetes patients. The results of this review suggest that secure messaging between adult diabetic patients and their clinician is associated with improved glycemic control. However, results from observational studies indicate that many diabetic patients do not take advantage of web portal features such as secure messaging, perhaps because of a lack of internet access or lack of experience in navigating web portal resources. Although results from randomized controlled trials provide stronger evidence of the efficacy of web portal use in improving glycemic control among diabetic patients, the number of trials is small and results from the trials have been mixed. Studies suggest that secure messaging between adult diabetic patients and their clinician is associated with improved glycemic control, but negative findings have also been reported. The number of randomized controlled trials that have examined the efficacy of web portal use in improving glycemic control among diabetic patients is still small. Additional research is needed to identify specific portal features that may impact quality of care or improve glycemic control.