Patient PHR use up, but socioeconomic disparities persist

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More patients are using portals/personal health records (PHRs), but a socioeconomic “digital divide” still exists, according to a study published this month in the American Journal of Managed Care.

Patient portals/PHRs have become more available to patients because of the Meaningful Use program’s requirements to provide patients with access to their electronic records. The researchers, from Weill Cornell Medical College, conducted a four-year survey of adult New York State residents using random digit-dial telephone polls to track PHR adoption trends.

They found that the weighted proportion of New Yorkers who reported using PHRs rose from 11 percent in 2012 to 27.1 percent in 2015.  Despite this “large and rapid” increase overall in the use of the portals, “a digital divide remains evident," particularly regarding low income and Hispanic individuals.

For instance, while black individuals initially were substantially less likely to use the system than white individuals, their adoption rose so sharply that by 2015 the adoption rate was not statistically different between black individuals and other races.

However, the adoption rate of Hispanics lagged “significantly” and the adoption rate among low-income respondents was about half of the rate of higher income respondents. The researchers also found PHR use more common among patients who used the internet more frequently, those with a higher education and those who used prescription medications.

“Healthcare organizations seeking to use these tools to engage patients should examine their efforts to reach all patient groups," the researchers said. "Measures that should be investigated include making these technologies accessible in multiple languages, designing for usability by individuals with low levels of computer expertise, and ensuring access via mobile phone and Web browsers."

To learn more:
- read the study