ONC finds significant disparities in use, access to online medical records

The number of people using IT for their health needs increased "significantly" between 2013 and 2014, but socio-demographic disparities remain, according to the latest data brief from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

The data brief shows that the percentage of individuals offered online access to their medical records grew by over one-third to nearly 4 in 10 (38 percent) in 2014. Not surprisingly, individuals whose provider had an EHR were offered online access to their medical record three times more than the rate of those whose provider did not have an EHR, 22 percent compared to just 9 percent.

However, the differences varied widely based on income, education, race and proficiency in English. More than half (53 percent) of people with incomes above $100,000 were offered access to their information, compared to 27 percent of those that had incomes of less than $25,000. Sixty-six percent of those with incomes over $100,000 actually viewed their record, compared to 36 percent of those whose incomes were less than $25,000. Fifty-two percent of those with more than a four-year college degree were offered online access compared to 19 percent of those who were not high school graduates.    

Those with higher incomes and more education were also more likely to email and text message their providers and look at their test results online.

The disparities continued along racial and ethnic lines, with 43 percent of whites offered online access but 35 percent of non-Hispanic blacks, 31 percent of Asians and 22 percent of Hispanics. Only 5 percent of those who didn't speak English were offered online access, while 39 percent who spoke English well or very well were offered such access.  

ONC says it will continue to examine variations in health IT access and use "to identify disparities and factors that enable greater access and use of health IT."

Other studies have shown that there are disparities among consumers in online access to their records, and that those perceived as more vulnerable less likely to use them.

To learn more:
- read the data brief