Nearly half of adults older than 65 don't have online medical accounts that could connect them with COVID-19 vaccines

Older adults are being prioritized for COVID-19 vaccines because they are among the most vulnerable to complications from the novel coronavirus. 

But they are also less likely to be using the tech tools such as online patient portals that would help notify them about vaccine availability and appointment scheduling, according to newly analyzed data from National Poll on Healthy Aging, based at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. 

Nearly half (45%) of individuals between the ages of 65 and 80 said they had not set up an account with their health provider’s online portal system, the analysis found.

RELATED: From telehealth visits to digital pharmacies, seniors have ramped up technology use during COVID-19: survey

It's not just seniors. More than four in ten adults (42%) between the ages of 50 and 80 said they had not set up an account with their health provider’s portal system.

“Right now, one important thing that we can do for older adults is encourage and help them to sign up for patient portal access, or log in again if they haven’t in a while, if their provider offers one, and especially if it will be used as part of the COVID-19 vaccination process,” said Preeti Malani, M.D., director of the poll and an infectious disease physician at Michigan Medicine in a statement, U-M’s academic medical center, in a statement.

The analysis was based on a poll carried out online in a national sample of more than 2,000 adults aged 50 to 80 in June 2020. Laptops and Internet access were provided to poll respondents who did not already have them, officials said. 

The data also raised concerns about gaps in patient portal use, particularly by those with the highest risk of severe complications from COVID-19. For instance, half of Black older adults and 53% of Hispanic older adults lacked accounts, the said. 

They also found major gaps based on income. For instance, 54% of adults with household incomes of less than $60,000 reported they did not have a patient portal account while 35% of adults with higher incomes indicated they did not have an account.