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Digital Divide Opens Up in Patient Use of Online Medical Records
Date:3/30/2011

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, March 30 (HealthDay News) -- When it comes to taking advantage of Internet-based medical information in the form of physician-provided online "personal health records," some American patients are more plugged in than others, new research reveals.

Differences in race, income and age all affect the likelihood that patients will log on to check out their own health history, the study shows, with patients who are white, older, and/or wealthier more likely to request access to their online medical history.

"It's really probably just been in the last three or four years that usage has really begun to take off," noted study co-author Dr. David W. Bates, chief of the division of general internal medicine in the department of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "And it's growing very fast, and should continue to grow really rapidly. But the bottom-line is that a digital divide does exist in terms of who tends to start using online personal health records," Bates said.

"But the good news is that once people actually start using them, the level of use is basically the same for all patients, regardless of socioeconomic status and race," he added.

Bates, who is also the medical director of clinical and quality analysis at Partners HealthCare System in Boston, and colleagues report their findings in the March 28 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

Personal health records are an Internet-based set of tools that allow people to review lab-test results and communicate by email with their health care providers, among other things.

The Obama administration and many health care advocates have been pushing online medical records as a way to make health care easier and more reliable, and the authors note that more than 70 million Americans are now estimated to have access to some form of their online medical history.

That said, less than
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