Journal of Medical Internet Research, Journal of Medical Internet Research, 8(21), p. e13743, 2019
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Background In the Netherlands, the health care system and related information technology landscape are fragmented. Recently, hospitals have started to launch patient portals. It is not clear how these portals are used by patients and their health care providers (HCPs). Objective The objective of this study was to explore the adoption, use, usability, and usefulness of a recently introduced patient portal in an academic hospital to learn lessons for the implementation of patient portals in a fragmented health care system. Methods A mixed methods study design was used. In the quantitative study arm, characteristics of patients who used the portal were analyzed, in addition to the utilization of the different functionalities of the portal. In the qualitative study arms, think-aloud observations were made to explore usability. Focus group discussions were conducted among patients and HCPs of the dermatology and ophthalmology outpatient departments. Thematic content analysis of qualitative data was carried out and overarching themes were identified using a framework analysis. Results One year after the introduction of the portal, 24,514 patients, 13.49% of all patients who visited the hospital, had logged in to the portal. Adoption of the portal was associated with the age group 45 to 75 years, a higher socioeconomic status, and having at least one medical diagnosis. Overarching themes from the qualitative analyses were (1) usability and user-friendliness of the portal, (2) HCP-patient communication through the portal, (3) usefulness of the information that can be accessed through the portal, (4) integration of the portal in care and work processes, and (5) HCP and patient roles and relationships. Conclusions One year after the introduction of the patient portal, patients and HCPs who used the portal recognized the potential of the portal to engage patients in their care processes, facilitate patient-HCP communication, and increase patient convenience. Uncertainties among patients and HCPs about how to use the messaging functionality and limited integration of the portal in care and work processes are likely to have limited portal use and usefulness.