THURSDAY, Aug. 5, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Smartphone-only internet access is associated with lower patient portal use among those from some minority racial/ethnic groups, according to a research letter published online July 26 in JAMA Network Open.

Kea Turner, Ph.D., from the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida, and colleagues examined whether smartphone-only internet access was associated with patient portal use. Data from the 2017 to 2020 Health Information National Trends Survey was analyzed (8,790 adults).

The researchers found that the number of U.S. residents with smartphone-only internet access significantly increased from 21.6 percent in 2017 to 31.1 percent in 2020, while patient portal use significantly increased from 44.0 to 54.8 percent over the same time period. Non-Hispanic Black participants (odds ratio, 1.32) and Hispanic participants (odds ratio, 1.33) had significantly higher odds of smartphone-only internet access versus non-Hispanic White participants. Individuals in the highest income category (≥$75,000) had significantly lower odds of smartphone-only internet versus individuals with lower income (<$20,000; odds ratio, 0.57). Smartphone-only internet access was associated with significantly lower odds of portal use versus access with a wired connection (odds ratio, 0.82).

“After accounting for smartphone-only internet access, some patients (e.g., those with lower income) were still less likely to use portals, suggesting multimodal strategies are needed for overcoming the digital divide,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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