Converging perspectives of providers and student users on extending a patient portal into a university-based mental health service: A qualitative study

2020-05-19T23:34:12Z (GMT) by N Gasteiger Theresa Fleming K Day
© 2020 The Authors Background: Patient portals have the potential to increase access to mental health services. However, a lack of research is available to guide practices on extending patient portals into mental health services. This study explored stakeholder (student service users' and health providers') expectations and perceptions of extending patient portals into a New Zealand university-based mental health service. Materials and methods: This qualitative study explored the perspectives of 17 students and staff members at a university-based health and counselling service on an Internet-based patient portal through a software demonstration, two focus groups and 13 interviews. Data were analyzed thematically. Results: Staff and students perceived the patient portal as useful, easy to use and expected it to help make mental health care more accessible. Staff were most concerned with the portal's ability to support their triage processes and that it might enable students to ‘counselor hop’ (see multiple counselors). Staff recommended extension into services that do not require triage. Most students expected the portal to enhance patient-counselor contact and rapport, through continuity of care. Students were concerned with appointment waiting times, the stigmatization of poor mental health and their capacity to seek help. They considered the portal might assist with this. Students recommended extension into all services, including urgent appointments. After viewing findings from initial student and staff groups, staff concluded that extending a patient portal into their counseling services should be prioritized. Conclusion: This research suggests that there is value in extending patient portals into mental health care, especially into low-risk services. Future research should explore opportunities to support triage and appointment-making processes for mental health services, via patient portals.