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

ose who accessed personal health records, 70 percent made use of the system's patient-physician messaging feature infrequently. Among those who did, questions about care and requests for drug refills were the most popular subjects, each accounting for about one-third of messaging. Doctor referrals was another popular messaging topic, followed by address corrections and billing.

Bates and his associates were unable to say exactly what seems to be driving the differences in personal health record adoption and use, calling for more research on the subject.

"But there's already increasing evidence that using an online health record like this should improve the patient experience and quality of care," Bates said. "It's just very helpful to go and look at your lab tests at your leisure. And most providers believe that it's really to the patient's advantage to be more informed about the care they're getting," he added.

"So it's important to figure out why a lot of people haven't been doing this yet," Bates said.

Meanwhile, Erin Stevenson, a senior digital health care consultant for Redwood Medical Consulting in Bayside, Calif., sees a bright future for online personal health records, despite some patient hesitancy.

"Twentysomethings tend to take their health for granted and have better things to do, so they're not using it a lot. And poverty, which often mixes with race, is a predominant reason people don't log on, because folks who are busy and focused on just scraping by and surviving see it as a luxury they just can't swing," Stevenson observed.

"So it's the middle and upper classes, and folks who are 30 and up who are serious about their health who are using this to begin with," Stevenson noted. "It gets tricky among those mid-50s and up, because then you get into people who are not very computer literate. But people who do use it report back to their doctors that they like it. And word of mouth matters. So really we're probably goi
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