Shared patient portal use could overcome barriers

Shared access to records through a patient portal offers a way to overcome barriers such as patients' limited technical skills and health literacy, though it's rarely used, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association.

Researchers surveyed 323 patients and 389 care partners who had shared access to the Geisinger Health System patient portal, MyGeisinger. More than a decade after patients were offered use of the portal, they found that just 0.4 percent of registered adult patient portal users shared access to their account with a family member or friend.

Other studies have found that nearly all patients want control over their electronic health information, but they vary considerably in preferences for sharing their information with others.

Among those sharing access in this study, more than half had inadequate health literacy and a high school education or less. Care partners were overwhelmingly family members who were comparatively better educated, more confident in their ability to help manage the patient's health and more frequent users of health information technology.

Care partners also were more likely to perform health-management activities electronically and to use portal features, such as direct messaging.

Many portals don't provide for shared access, the authors pointed out. Without the ability to use their own credentials, family members may instead log in using the patient's credentials.

Other barriers include myriad state laws related to portal access, most notably for adolescents.

The number of people using IT for their health needs has increased "significantly," but socio-demographic disparities remain, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT reported recently.

Patients who are over the age of 69 and black or Latino are less likely to use a health organization's online patient portal, according to researchers at Kaiser Permanente locations in California and Oregon.

To learn more:
- here's the research (.pdf)