University Poll Shows Elders are Slow to Use Health Care Provider’s Online Access Portals

A recent poll conducted by the University of Michigan showed that older Americans are slow to embrace the use of their health care provider’s secure online patient access portals to communicate with the doctors and other health care providers. Despite the widespread availability of online healthcare access portals, only about half of people between the ages of 50 to 80-years old have set up an account on a secure online access sites offered by their health care provider, according to the new findings from the National Poll on Healthy Aging conducted by the University of Michigan.


However, those with higher educations and income levels had higher rates of patient portal use even though those with lower household incomes and less education generally have more healthcare needs. Additionally, age appears to play a role in adoption rates of the technology as those aged 65-years and older were more likely than people in their 50s and early 60s to report they do not like using computers to communicate about their health or are generally comfortable with technology.


The poll, sponsored by AARP and University of Michigan’s academic medical center, Michigan Medicine, analyzed the preferences of over 2,000 participants and found that among older adults who had not yet set up access to a patient portal, 52-percent cited concerns about communicating online about health information. Another 50-percent reported they did not see the need for this kind of access to their health information and about 40-percent simply had not gotten around to setting up their access yet.


The federal government has required hospitals, health systems, and other health care providers over the past several years to offer patient portal options if the institutions wish to claim extra funding from Medicare. These requirements include timely access to records and test results that are part of a provider’s electronic health record system, which constitute 84 percent of the actions taken by those who did take advantage of services offered online.


The report determined that as patients age and have more complex health needs, providers may want to help their patients understand that they can authorize their loved ones to have access to these online portals to aid in their healthcare decisions. Another study found that “health supporters” such as adult children are willing and able to help people with chronic illness, but often feel left out by both patients and providers.

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