Millions of older adults co-manage or delegate health responsibilities to one or more family caregivers. Patient portals facilitate health care management tasks, but little is known about portal use arrangements (i.e., individual or joint use) among older adults and their caregivers.
We sought to characterize individual and joint use of the patient portal and to identify how using arrangements varies by individual-, interpersonal-, and community-level factors. We used linked 2017 National Health and Aging Trends Study, National Study on Caregiving, and American Community Survey data for a nationally representative sample of older adults (n = 1417; weighted n = 7.4 million) and their caregivers (n = 2232; weighted n = 20.6 million). Patient portals used by older adults and caregiver(s) were assessed via self-reports. We described portal use arrangements and tested for between-group differences using weighted Wald tests. Caregiver's likelihood of accessing the portal was modeled using weighted, multivariable logistic regression.
One in ten (10%) community-living older adults were sole portal users, 3% were joint users with one or more caregivers, 14% solely relied on one or more caregivers as portal users, and 74% reported no portal use. Older adults whose portal was only used by caregiver(s) were more likely to be Medicaid-enrolled (20% vs. 1%; p < 0.001), have dementia (43% vs. 5%; p < 0.001), and be homebound (65% vs. 27%; p < 0.001). Caregivers were more likely to use the portal if they were college-educated adjusted odds ratio (aOR): 1.68; p < 0.01) and reported caregiving-related emotional difficulty (aOR: 1.92; p < 0.001) and doing more than their “fair share” (aOR: 1.48; p = 0.03), and were less likely if Black (versus White) (aOR: 0.61; p = 0.01).
Patient portals could be a valuable platform for identifying and supporting caregivers of high-need older adults, but existing disparities in portal access must be closed to ensure equitable support.
Burgdorf, J. G., Fabius, C. D., & Wolff, J. L. (2022). Use of provider-sponsored patient portals among older adults and their family caregivers. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.18187