Study: Inequitable Use of Patient Portals May Widen Health Disparities

A recent study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, “Disparities in Electronic Health Record Patient Portal Use in Nephrology Clinics,” the sociodemographic characteristics of patients receiving care from any of four University of Pittsburgh affiliated nephrology clinics between January 2010 and December 2012. The patients included in the study had at least one follow-up visit prior to July 2013. For each of these patients, the nephrology office activated a free patient portal linked to an existing ambulatory electronic health record (EHR) and office staff members informed patients about the portal, inviting them to sign-up during the check-in process.

According to the study authors, “Enabling patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) to easily access their medical information is a novel approach to facilitate patient engagement and activation. In other chronic disease settings, empowering patients in this fashion improves disease knowledge, enhances patient-provider communication, and increases adherence to treatment.”  

To understand the adoption of such tools by patients, the researchers viewed sociodemographic characteristics, comorbidities, clinical measurements and office visits from the EHR as well as tracking patients’ median household income. The researchers found that 39% of patients accessed the patient portal with portal adoption growing over time. However, vulnerable groups were the least likely to use the portal.

Access the study.

Read a summary of the study from Healthcare Informatics.