SAN FRANCISCO – Many African Americans and Latinos are reluctant to use patient portals because they fear losing personal time with their health providers, a study has found.
“A main theme of the discussions was the need to protect or establish interpersonal relationships with health care providers,” researchers said.
Researchers from Kaiser Permanente and the University of California, San Francisco, conducted the study to explore the specific barriers to portal use among Latino and African American patients. Their work was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
Researchers conducted 10 focus groups with 87 participants over two years among African American and Latino Kaiser Permanente members who were not registered for portal access. Participants were older, had a chronic disease, or were parents.
“Despite the widespread implementation of electronic health records, there is growing evidence that racial/ethnic minority patients do not use portals as frequently as non-Hispanic whites to access their EHR information online,” the researchers said. “This differential portal use could be problematic for health care disparities since early evidence links portal use to better outcomes.”
The study identified several barriers to portal use, including a preference for in-person communication, and a concern that the use of online tools would diminish the patients’ personal relationship with their providers. Participants also believe portals are difficult to navigate and their content was often too complex to understand.
Because portals are a platform that more health care systems plan to use as a way to integrate additional mobile health technologies like uploading patient-generated sensor or mobile app data, “it is critical that this process addresses broad barriers to use and reduces the possibilities of exacerbating existing health care disparities,” the researchers said.