The online tools and resources help patients with asthma, coronary artery disease, diabetes and other ailments adhere to drug therapy, make lifestyle choices and better manage their conditions.
Patients managing health conditions who use Kaiser Permanente's personal health record and other health information and resources available on kp.org are highly confident in their ability to manage their conditions, according to a recent survey.
"We found that use of the Kaiser Permanente website was positively and significantly related to patients' self-efficacy to care for their chronic conditions," said Valerie Sue, PhD, study author and senior consultant, national market research, Kaiser Permanente. "Self-efficacy is a measure of confidence in one's ability to affect change in one's behavior. The study showed that patients who used more of kp.org's features were more confident in their abilities to make informed decisions about their health conditions, follow their medication schedules and communicate with their doctors."
The survey reinforces findings from a 2010 Kaiser Permanente study published in Health Affairs, which showed that secure patient-physician email use was associated with an improvement of 26.5 percentage points in performance on the HbA1c glucose test, cholesterol, and blood pressure screening and control.
"For patients who are motivated to become healthier, we want to make the experience of managing their health as easy as possible," said Jack Cochran, MD, executive director of The Permanente Federation.
"For example, patients with diabetes may need to communicate with their physicians more often. Rather than having to make a phone call or even come in for a visit, an email exchange can make it easy for patients to understand what to do next. Helping people adopt healthy habits is the ultimate goal."
In addition to being able to email their physicians, kp.org users can view thousands of pages of information on conditions and drugs. Once they sign on to My Health Manager, patients can refill prescriptions, schedule appointments and view lab test results. Online coaching programs are available for patients with diabetes, depression and other chronic conditions.
"I am a very active and healthy person, but having a chronic condition like diabetes requires that I take extra care in managing my health," said Kaiser Permanente member Mary Levine, 59, of Oakland, Calif. "Having access to the online resources and my physician through kp.org makes me feel confident that I have the tools I need to better manage my health and wellbeing."
More than 4 million patients are registered to use My Health Manager on kp.org. In 2011, patients signed on to My Health Manager more than 74 million times and took advantage of the website's features in record numbers:
29.7 million lab results viewed online
12.2 million secure emails sent to providers
10 million prescriptions refilled
2.7 million appointments scheduled
This year, Kaiser Permanente made My Health Manager securely available on mobile devices with a mobile-optimized website and iPhone and Android apps. Since its launch in late January, the mobile-optimized kp.org website has received more than 9.7 million visit sessions, accounting for 16 percent of total traffic to kp.org in the month of July. The health care organization's Android app has had more than 135,000 downloads since Jan. 24 and its iPhone app has had more than 132,000 downloads since May 8.
More than 3,000 Kaiser Permanente members previously diagnosed with diabetes, coronary artery disease, depression or asthma responded to the email survey. Study participants reported which website features they used and indicated their level of confidence on seven activities related to caring for their health conditions. A follow-up study is planned for the fall.
"The ability to track and graph historical test results and check when it's time to get my A1C make diabetes management much easier and seamless for me," said Levine. "And I don't just have access to information online, I also have access to the tools I need to act on that information, like ordering all my prescriptions to be mailed to me or emailing my doctor with questions."
My Health Manager is a free service available to all Kaiser Permanente patients. Patients can visit kp.org/register to sign up to activate and access their personal health records, then download the health management app on their iPhone or Android devices.