Date Published:2013 Oct
OBJECTIVES: Patients frequently use secure web portals to access their medical record and communicate with their doctors, though few institutions currently train residents for electronic communication. We sought to develop a curriculum for secure messaging between patients and resident physicians, and to assess resident attitudes before and after the curriculum. METHODS: In 2011, we developed a curriculum for patient-doctor secure messaging using a web-based patient portal within an internal medicine residency programme. We asked all residents to perform a self-assessment of skills, and report attitudes toward electronic communication at the beginning and end of the experience (9 months apart). We enrolled residents who practiced at the hospital-based clinic site into the patient portal, and recorded usage statistics. RESULTS: The completed survey response rate was 108/159 (68%). At baseline, 57% of residents had used traditional email with patients, and most residents felt that the portal would increase work for providers but benefit patients. Postintervention questionnaires demonstrated no significant changes among all respondents, but residents who used the portal perceived improvements in care. Most residents were concerned about professional liability. More residents felt comfortable writing electronic messages to patients after the curriculum (80% to 91%, p=0.01). CONCLUSIONS: Implementing a patient web portal and secure messaging in a residency clinic is feasible and may improve the work and educational experience of trainees. Residents were initially sceptical of secure messaging being an additional burden to their work, but this was not realised among residents who used the portal.