Hospital; Removing the barriers of access to technology does not close the digital divide for African American and older patients, according to new research from The Ohio State University College of Medicine. As part of a larger examination of patient portal use, this study published in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health looked at the use of patient portals while people are admitted in the hospital. Over a one-year period, researchers found patients age 60 and over use the portal less than patients ages 18 to 29, and African American patients used the portal less than white patients.
“Patient-facing technology like inpatient portals are intend to engage patients in their health care by improving communication with the care team and allowing them to access test results, progress notes and other information in their medical records,” said Daniel Walker, assistant professor of family medicine and biomedical informatics in CATALYST, the Center for the Advancement of Team Science, Analytics and Systems Thinking in Health Services and Implementation Science Research in the College of Medicine. “The lack of use of this technology may be limiting its ability to improve health and health care.”
Medical Center hospital
The overall study has been led by Ann Scheck McAlearney; professor of family medicine and executive director of CATALYST; also was fund by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. McAlearney explained, “This large, pragmatic, randomize and control trial has recruiting patients admit to six Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center hospital over the past two years. It enables us to examine various factors influencing patients’ and providers’ use of and experience with the patient portal; so including identifying these disparities they find.”
Patients enroll in the study use a hospital provide tablet; so with a password protect patient portal application they could access. Patients were not prompt to use the patient portal by the study team. To measure portal usage, researchers look at the total number of tasks complet during the hospital stay such as logging into the application; so sending messages to the care team, viewing test results, ordering meals and accessing tutorials.
younger patients signifying
The 60 to 69 age group use the inpatient portal 45% less than the 18 to 29 age group; also the 70 and over age group use the inpatient portal 36% less than the 18 to 29 age group. African American patients use the portal 40% less than white patients. “When we look at the data, we saw older patients use the tutorial feature more than younger patients; hence signifying older patients may need more training resources in order to increase use,” Walker said. “The use disparity between African American and white patients suggests the differences; so in use may be more nuanced and not simply an access issue. Additional intervention is need to close the digital divide.”
Future analyses will explore the factors that contribute to the age and race disparities; so to help develop educational interventions to close the gap in technology use. “There’s been a rapid growth of technological resources to help patients manage their health,” said Dr. K. Craig Kent, dean of Ohio State’s College of Medicine. “With continue innovation, it’s vital that all patients, regardless of age or race, are able to use these tools that can significantly enhance communication and patient care. As helpful as these tools can be, the research of our team at Ohio State shows that we need to create approaches that are usable to all patients, regardless of age and race.”