Misleading Patient Portal Data Due To Covid-19?!

What is the Covid Bump in our Patient Portal data, and what does it mean?

Patient Portals and Covid

Okay, everybody knows we are all pushing patients to go online (in our case to UCHealth’s My Health Connection -MHC – patient portal) in order to be a candidate for our “vaccine scheduling” randomization. Because we are so constrained in our vaccine supply, we can NOT offer vaccine to everyone who wants it, and as a result, we can only send out several thousand invitations or so per day for patients to schedule themselves online.

The reason we had to randomize the invitation for vaccine: Can you image if we did it the other way, opened up Vaccine scheduling to EVERYONE over age 70 in Colorado (we think there are 400,000 in the state) and then RAN OUT with people still in line? We do NOT want to replicate other state’s experiences of patients standing in line overnight hoping for a vaccine. Yikes.

Disparity concerns

Keep in mind, we have now set up “popup” clinics for patients in disadvantaged neighborhoods, churches, etc, as well as a phone number: UCHealth COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline: 720.462.2255; and website for additional folks to sign up: http://www.uchealth.org/covidvaccine .

Growth

Having said this, we have seen a TREMENDOUS growth in our patient portal numbers, from 800,000 several months ago, to 1,200,000 now, about a 30% growth in that amount of time. Yes, we realize some of these are patients who never felt the need to sign up for a portal account, and some are community members who are NOT UCHealth patients, signing up JUST FOR access to vaccine.

Anomalous age peak > 65?

Having said all this, look at the chart above. Unlike our previous age distribution of Active MHC accounts that peaked around age 30, we now have this anomalous peak above age 65! Twenty-four percent of our active population.

In hindsight, I am sad that our Slicer tool only sees “Activated patient portal accounts” as of right now, and that I no longer have access to snapshots in time from last year, to show you. To do that would require skills beyond this Data Dilettante, sorry.

65? 75?

So, what if you subdivide >65 into 65-75 and then >75? Lets see!

From my vague recollection, both >65 and >75 age groups with Portal accounts have nearly doubled in percentage.

Can we see the Vaccine Clinics in our Visit data?

Let’s see. Here is a graph (again with CURRENTLY ACTIVE patient portal accounts), by week, from September through end of January, of patients WITH MHC accounts, who are age > 70 (the previous criteria for phase 1b vaccination, and yes I know Colorado has lowered Covid vaccine candidacy to age 65+ this week).

Aha! Since we started vaccinating in December, we focused, as per state and federal guidelines, on healthcare workers and first responders. Thus, we should NOT see any bump in the patient visits for those with a portal account AND age over 70.

However, I can convince myself I see a bump at the end of December where we were telling patients to sign up for MHC to enter the lottery for next phase of vaccination, and then BOOM, a significant growth in visits with patients with MHC and over age 70 in January, scaling up and up. I think this is our in-hospital vaccine clinics, vaccinating about 5000 per day and our 2 weekend Coors Field Mass Vaccine events, the most recent vaccinating 10,000 over the weekend. Do you see me waving from those last 2 data points? Hi!

CMIO’s take? This is more than just an aging boomer population; this is Covid at work in interesting ways. I will be fascinated to see where Colorado, our online populations, and our healthcare will go in the coming months and years. What are you guys learning out there?

Author: CT Lin

CMIO, UCHealth (Colorado); Professor, University of Colorado School of Medicine

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