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Functional Impairments May Hamper EHR Access for Seniors, Study Finds

May 22, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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Elderly people with functional impairments or chronic illness may have trouble accessing and utilizing their electronic health records online, says a new research study.

The study looked at responses from the Health and Retirement Study from the University of Michigan, which is a nationally representative survey of people aged 65 years and older. From 2002 to 2010, the percentage of respondents who used the internet rose from 21 percent to 42 percent. However, usage rates varied based on characteristics.

Those with physical impairments and chronic illness had lower rates of internet usage than those without. Fifty percent of the respondents without physical impairment and 52 percent with no chronic illness reported internet use in 2010, compared to only 23 percent with physical impairment and 40 percent with chronic illness. The rate of increase from 2002 to 2010 also slanted in favor of those without physical impairments and chronic illness.

The authors surmise that those with functional impairments and chronic illness may not be able to access electronic health records online, a requirement of Stage 2 of meaningful use. “What I think has gotten lost in this is yes, we need the electronic medical records to be accessible, but who are the groups that will have difficulty getting to those portals?”  S. Ryan Greysen, M.D., lead author from the University of California, San Francisco, said to Reuters.

The study appears in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine.

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