WEDNESDAY, July 17, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Older patients and African-American patients use an inpatient portal less often than younger and white patients, according to a study published online July 9 in Telemedicine and e-Health.

Daniel M. Walker, Ph.D., M.P.H., from The Ohio State University in Columbus, and colleagues examined whether there are disparities in the use of patient portals specifically designed for the inpatient environment. A total of 842 patients admitted to six hospitals were provided with access to a tablet equipped with an inpatient portal and were recruited to participate in the study. Demographic characteristics of study enrollees were obtained from electronic health records.

The researchers identified age and race disparities in use of the inpatient portal. Compared with patients aged 18 to 29 years, those aged 60 to 69 and older than 70 years were less likely to use inpatient portals (45.3 and 36.7 percent difference, respectively). The portal was used less by African-American versus white patients (40.4 percent difference).

“In practice, access to technology may not be the only barrier that needs to be addressed to reduce the digital divide,” the authors write. “Moving forward, research efforts that seek to clarify environmental and personal upstream factors that could contribute to the disparity we observed can help to better target intervention development and support efforts to reduce differences in technology use.”

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