Really? Is Patient Portal Usage Growing among Older Adults? Why?
So many questions in a title. Wondering why? Let's jump into the facts!
According to a recent poll, a significantly larger number of older adults now use secure websites or applications to access their health information or engage in virtual healthcare appointments compared to five years ago.
The study says, “Overall, 78% of people age 50 to 80 have used at least one patient portal, up from 51% in a poll taken five years ago, according to findings from the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging. Of those with portal access, 55% had used it in the past month, and 49% have accounts on more than one portal”.
These users are very much encouraged and backed up by the integration of telehealth into Patient portals. Let’s jump into the details.
Reasons for Increasing Usage of Patient Portals among Older Adults
1. Increased accessibility
- Patient portals provide a convenient and accessible way for older adults to interact with their providers and access their personal health information
- They can log in to the portal from the comfort of their own homes, eliminating the need for travel or phone calls
2. Convenience & time-saving
- Patient portals allow older adults to schedule appointments, request prescription refills, and communicate with healthcare providers online
- This saves time and effort compared to traditional methods such as making phone calls or visiting the doctor's office in person
3. Health information management
- Older adults often have complex medical histories and maybe manage multiple chronic conditions
- Patient portals provide a centralized platform for them to access their medical records, test results, and treatment plans
- This helps them stay organized and actively participate in their healthcare decision-making process
4. Secure communication
- Patient portals offer a secure platform for older adults to communicate with their healthcare providers
- They can ask questions, clarify instructions, and seek medical advice without the need for face-to-face appointments or phone calls
- This can be especially beneficial for individuals with mobility limitations or those residing in remote areas
5. Empowerment & Engagement
- Patient portals empower older adults by involving them in their own healthcare management
- They can review their health information, track progress, set goals, and monitor their conditions
- This increased engagement can lead to better self-care and improved health outcomes
6. Digital literacy and technology adoption
- As technology becomes more prevalent in healthcare, older adults are becoming increasingly comfortable with using digital tools
- Many older adults now have smartphones, tablets, or computers, and are more willing to embrace online platforms like patient portals
It's important to note that while the usage of patient portals is growing among older adults, there are still challenges to overcome like addressing disparities in digital access and ensuring user-friendly interfaces for individuals with varying levels of technological proficiency.
Racial Disparities in the Patient Portal Utilization among Older Adults
According to the study, Patient portal utilization rates are lower among older adults with incomes below $60,000 annually, as well as among Black and Hispanic older adults, compared to their high-income and White counterparts.
Additionally, individuals in these groups express less comfort in using the patient portal compared to high-income individuals or those who identify as White.
Factors contributing to these disparities:
1. Access to technology
- Disparities in access to technology and internet connectivity can hinder the utilization of patient portals among older adults from racial minority groups
- Limited access to smartphones, computers, or reliable internet services can create barriers to using these online platforms
2. Digital literacy
- Racial minority populations, particularly older adults, may face challenges in terms of digital literacy and technology skills
- Navigating patient portals and understanding how to use them effectively may be more difficult for individuals who are less familiar with technology
3. Language and cultural barriers
- Language and cultural barriers can also affect patient portal utilization
- Some patient portals may not provide language options or culturally appropriate interfaces, making it more challenging for individuals from racial minority groups to engage with these platforms
4. Health literacy
- Health literacy disparities can impact the utilization of patient portals
- Older adults from racial minority groups may have lower health literacy levels, which can hinder their ability to understand and use patient portals effectively
5. Trust and privacy concerns
- Trust in the healthcare system and concerns about privacy and data security can influence patient portal utilization
- Historical experiences of racial discrimination and disparities in healthcare can contribute to a lack of trust, leading some individuals to be hesitant in using patient portals
Addressing these Disparities requires Targeted Efforts
1. Increasing access to technology
Ensuring equitable access to affordable devices, internet connectivity, and digital infrastructure is essential in bridging the technology gap.
2. Promoting digital literacy
Providing resources & training programs that specifically target older adults from racial minority groups can help enhance their digital skills and confidence in using patient portals.
3. Culturally & linguistically appropriate interfaces
Developing patient portals that are designed to accommodate diverse languages and cultural backgrounds can improve engagement and utilization among racial minority populations.
4. Improving health literacy
Enhancing health literacy through educational initiatives, plain language materials, and culturally sensitive communication can empower older adults to effectively use patient portals.
5. Building trust and addressing privacy concerns
Healthcare organizations must prioritize transparency, data security, and addressing historical injustices to build trust among racial minority populations.
Training for patients on the proper usage of patient portals will help break these racial and financial barriers to a major extent. There should be more efforts and financial backup initiatives for providing broadband access to those with lower incomes.
By implementing targeted efforts to bridge the gaps, healthcare organizations can strive towards achieving equitable utilization of patient portals among older adults from all racial backgrounds.
This will contribute to enhancing healthcare access, engagement, and outcomes for older adults across diverse populations.
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“Let’s empower your patients with the best cost-effective patient portal, together”