Patient engagement as measured by inpatient portal use: Methodology for log file analysis

Timothy Huerta, Naleef Fareed, Jennifer L. Hefner, Cynthia J. Sieck, Christine Swoboda, Robert Taylor, Ann Scheck McAlearney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background: Inpatient portals (IPPs) have the potential to increase patient engagement and satisfaction with their health care. An IPP provides a hospitalized patient with similar functions to those found in outpatient portals, including the ability to view vital signs, laboratory results, and medication information; schedule appointments; and communicate with their providers. However, IPPs may offer additional functions such as meal planning, real-time messaging with the inpatient care team, daily schedules, and access to educational materials relevant to their specific condition. In practice, IPPs have been developed as websites and tablet apps, with hospitals providing the required technology as a component of care during the patient’s stay. Objective: This study aimed to describe how inpatients are using IPPs at the first academic medical center to implement a system-wide IPP and document the challenges and choices associated with this analytic process. Methods: We analyzed the audit log files of IPP users hospitalized between January 2014 and January 2016. Data regarding the date/time and duration of interactions with each of the MyChart Bedside modules (eg, view lab results or medications and patient schedule) and activities (eg, messaging the provider and viewing educational videos) were captured as part of the system audit logs. The development of a construct to describe the length of time associated with a single coherent use of the tool—which we call a session—provides a foundational unit of analysis. We defined frequency as the number of sessions a patient has during a given provision day. We defined comprehensiveness in terms of the percentage of functions that an individual uses during a given provision day. Results: The analytic process presented data challenges such as length of stay and tablet-provisioning factors. This study presents data visualizations to illustrate a series of data-cleaning issues. In the presence of these robust approaches to data cleaning, we present the baseline usage patterns associated with our patient panel. In addition to frequency and comprehensiveness, we present considerations of median data to mitigate the effect of outliers. Conclusions: Although other studies have published usage data associated with IPPs, most have not explicated the challenges and choices associated with the analytic approach deployed within each study. Our intent in this study was to be somewhat exhaustive in this area, in part, because replicability requires common metrics. Our hope is that future researchers in this area will avail themselves of these perspectives to engage in critical assessment moving forward.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere10957
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Informatics


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