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Arch Intern Med. 2011 Mar 28;171(6):568-74. doi: 10.1001/archinternmed.2011.34.

The digital divide in adoption and use of a personal health record.

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  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02120, USA.



Personal health records (PHRs) offer the potential to improve the patient experience and the quality of patient care. However, the "digital divide," the population-level gap in Internet and computer access, may prevent certain groups from accessing the PHR.


We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of a PHR within a northeastern health system. We compared adopters (ie, those activating a PHR account online) with nonadopters (ie, those who see a physician offering the PHR but do not activate an account). We further categorized adopters by intensity of PHR use, measured by number of log-ins and number of messages sent to physicians' practices.


As of September 30, 2009, among 75,056 patients, 43% had adopted the PHR since 2002. Blacks and Hispanics were less likely to adopt the PHR compared with whites (odds ratio [OR], 0.50; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.45-0.55; and 0.64; 0.57-0.73, respectively), and those with lower annual income were less likely to adopt the PHR than were those with higher income. Compared with nonadopters, adopters were more likely to have more than 2 comorbidities (OR, 1.27; 95% CI, 1.17-1.30). Use of an aggressive marketing strategy for PHR enrollment increased adoption nearly 3-fold (OR, 2.92; 95% CI, 1.58-5.40). Intensity of use was best predicted by increasing number of comorbidities, followed by race/ethnicity (whites more than blacks and Hispanics) and insurance status. We found no association between income and log-in frequency or secure messages sent.


Despite increasing Internet availability, racial/ethnic minority patients adopted a PHR less frequently than white patients, and patients with the lowest annual income adopted a PHR less often than those with higher incomes. Among adopters, however, income did not have an effect on PHR use.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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