Appl Clin Inform 2021; 12(04): 954-959
DOI: 10.1055/s-0041-1736221
Research Article

Patient Perceptions of Receiving COVID-19 Test Results via an Online Patient Portal: An Open Results Survey

Robert W. Turer
1   Department of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, United States
Catherine M. DesRoches
2   Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
3   Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Liz Salmi
2   Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Tara Helmer
4   Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, United States
S Trent Rosenbloom
1   Department of Biomedical Informatics, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, United States
› Author Affiliations
Funding This study was funded by Cambia Health Foundation and National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (grant: 5U24TR001579-03).


Background In the United States, attention has been focused on “open notes” and “open results” since the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology implemented the 21st Century Cures Act Final Rule on information blocking. Open notes is an established best practice, but open results remains controversial, especially for diseases associated with stigma, morbidity, and mortality. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is associated with all three of these effects and represents an ideal disease for the study of open results for sensitive test results.

Objectives This study evaluates patient perspectives related to receiving COVID-19 test results via an online patient portal prior to discussion with a clinician.

Methods We surveyed adults who underwent COVID-19 testing between March 1, 2020 and October 21, 2020 who agreed to be directly contacted about COVID-19-related research about their perspectives on receiving test results via a patient portal. We evaluated user roles (i.e., patient vs. care partner), demographic information, ease of use, impact of immediate release, notification of results, impact of viewing results on health management, and importance of sharing results with others.

Results Users were mostly patients themselves. Users found the portal easy to use but expressed mixed preferences about the means of notification of result availability (e.g., email, text, or phone call). Users found immediate access to results useful for managing their health, employment, and family/childcare. Many users shared their results and encouraged others to get tested. Our cohort consisted mostly of non-Hispanic white, highly educated, English-speaking patients.

Conclusion Overall, patients found open results useful for COVID-19 testing and few expressed increased worries from receiving their results via the patient portal. The demographics of our cohort highlight the need for further research in patient portal equity in the age of open results.

Protection of Human and Animal Subjects

This study was reviewed by the Vanderbilt University Institutional Review Board and met 45 CFR 46.104 (d) category (2)(4) for Exempt Review.

Publication History

Received: 24 May 2021

Accepted: 16 August 2021

Article published online:
13 October 2021

© 2021. Thieme. All rights reserved.

Georg Thieme Verlag KG
Rüdigerstraße 14, 70469 Stuttgart, Germany

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