BACKGROUND - Patient portal adoption has rapidly increased over the last decade. Most patient portal research has been done in primary care or medical specialties, and few studies have examined their use in surgical patients or for recruiting research subjects. No known studies have compared portal messaging with other approaches of recruitment.
OBJECTIVES - This case report describes our experience with patient portal versus telephone recruitment for a study involving long-term follow up of surgical patients.
METHODS - Participants were recruited for a study of recurrence after ventral hernia repair through telephone calls and patient portal messaging based on registration status with the portal. Potential subjects who did not have a portal account or whose portal messages were returned after 5 days were called. The proportion of participants enrolled with each method was determined and demographics of eligible patients, portal users, and participants were compared.
RESULTS - 1359 patients were eligible for the hernia study, and enrollment was 35% (n=465). Most participants were recruited by telephone (84%, n=391); 16% (n=74) were recruited through portal messaging. Forty-four percent of eligible participants had a registered portal account, and 14% of users responded to the recruitment message. Portal users were younger than non-users (55 vs. 58 years, p<0.001); participants recruited through the portal versus telephone were also younger (54 vs. 59 years, p=0.001). Differences in the sex and racial distributions between users and non-users and between portal and telephone recruits were not significant.
CONCLUSIONS - Portal versus telephone recruitment for a surgical research study demonstrated modest portal recruitment rates and similar demographics between recruitment methods. Published studies of portal-only recruitment in primary care or medical-specialty patient populations have demonstrated higher enrollment rates, but this case study demonstrates that portal recruitment for research studies in the surgical population is feasible, and it offers convenience to patients and researchers.