Despite having access to a portal to view their medical records or perform various healthcare tasks such as booking a doctor’s appointment online, not all consumers 50 and older use them.
In fact, only 50% of older patients use digital portals and patients over 65 use them even less, says the Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation at the University of Michigan. Each month the Institute surveys older consumers on a pertinent healthcare topic as a part of its ongoing poll on healthy aging.
The sample survey reveals that 51% of consumers over 50 used a digital healthcare portal. 52% of patients 50 to 64 used a portal compared with 49% of consumers 65 to 80. Women at 56% used a digital portal more than men (45%). Older patients who were more educated and with more income also were inclined to use portals more frequently. 59% of older adults with some college education used a portal 45% more than older consumers with just a high school diploma.
Older consumers with annual household income of $60,000 and higher used a digital portal at 59% compared with 42% of older patients with annual income below $60,000.
“Many older adults prefer communicating with their doctor’s office by telephone but it is understandable that some patients may prefer a communication method where they can respond in real time to questions about symptoms or ask for clarification if they do not understand the practice’s instructions,” says the Institute for Healthcare Policy.
Other survey findings include:
- Common reasons cited for not setting up a patient portal were that older adults do not like communicating about their health by computer (40%), do not have a need for a portal (38%), did not know they needed to set something up (33%), have not gotten around to setting up a portal (29%), are not comfortable with technology (26%) and/or their provider does not offer the option of a portal (26%).
- Older adults 65 to 80 years old were more likely to say that they do not like communicating about their health by computer (62% vs. 46%) and are not comfortable with technology (47% vs. 30%). Adults 50 to 64 were more likely to say that they have not gotten around to setting up a portal.
- Some adults who have not set up a patient portal had concerns about doing so: 26% were very concerned.
- Among portal users, 43% have authorized another person to see their portal information, most commonly their spouse or partner (37%), an adult child (5%) or another family member (2%).
- Of users who have not authorized another portal user, 43% said they do not have anyone who helps them with medical care, 35% prefer to keep their medical information private and 22% do not know how to set up authorized access.
There are multiple reasons accounting for why more older patients aren’t using portals, says Preeti Malani, a doctor and director of the of the National Poll on Healthy Aging. “The digital space in healthcare is here to stay but there are issues of trust and privacy,” she says. “Patients may just forget to sign up.”
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