News & Commentary

Online Portals? What Online Portals?


Nearly two thirds of insured patients do not use an online medical portal each year for a variety of reasons, according to a study published in the December issue of Health Affairs. Researchers with the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee looked at data on 2,325 patients in the 2017 Health Information National Trends Survey. They note that use of portals increases patient engagement and adherence.

“However, even when offered access, most patients do not use portals,” wrote Denise Anthony of the University of Michigan and colleagues.

They asked: How many times did you access your online medical record in the last 12 months? Respondents who answered zero were considered nonusers. Those who said once or more were considered users. By a wide margin, most (63%) respondents fell into the nonuser category.

Those who were offered access to a portal but did not use it were more likely to be age 65 or older, have less than a college education, live in a rural area, and be insured by Medicaid.

“In considering reasons why people did not use a portal, we found no evidence of disparities in technological barriers—in contrast to previous evidence that information technology use varies with socioeconomic status,” Anthony and her coauthors reported. Some of the reasons given for not using a portal were a desire to speak to a doctor directly (70%), no online medical record (32%), and privacy issues (22%).

Socioeconomic barriers were also evident. Patients with the lowest education levels, insured by Medicaid, and without a regular provider are less likely to report that they were offered access to an online portal or had used one.

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