J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2017 Apr 1;24(e1):e47-e54. doi: 10.1093/jamia/ocw098.
Online patient websites for electronic health record access among vulnerable populations: portals to nowhere?
With the rapid rise in the adoption of patient portals, many patients are gaining access to their personal health information online for the first time. The objective of this study was to examine specific usability barriers to patient portal engagement among a diverse group of patients and caregivers.
MATERIALS AND METHODS:
We conducted interviews using performance testing and think-aloud methods with 23 patients and 2 caregivers as they first attempted to use features of a newly launched patient portal.
In navigating the portal, participants experienced basic computer barriers (eg, difficulty using a mouse), routine computer barriers (eg, mistyping, navigation issues), reading/writing barriers, and medical content barriers. Compared to participants with adequate health literacy, participants with limited health literacy required 2 additional minutes to complete each task and were more likely to experience each type of navigational barrier. They also experienced more inaccuracies in interpreting a test result and finding a treatment plan within an after-visit summary.
When using a patient portal for the first time, participants with limited health literacy completed fewer tasks unassisted, had a higher prevalence of encountering barriers, took longer to complete tasks, and had more problems accurately interpreting medical information.
Our findings suggest a strong need for tailored and accessible training and support to assist all vulnerable patients and/or caregivers with portal registration and use. Measuring the health literacy of a patient population might serve as a strong proxy for identifying patients who need the most support in using health technologies.
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chronic disease; electronic health records; health literacy; personal health records; safety net providers