athenahealth Research: Low Portal Adoption Rates for Rural Patients | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

athenahealth Research: Low Portal Adoption Rates for Rural Patients

December 12, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
| Reprints

Of the 5.5 million patients who are visiting clinician practices that are on the athenahealth network, 33 percent in urban areas were registered on their physicians’ portals. But in rural areas, that figure drops to just 18 percent.

An athenaInsight blog on Dec. 8 revealed the latest statistics from the Watertown, Mass.-based vendor as it relates to patients who had doctors’ visits between January and August of this year. For patients in metro-adjacent areas, the portal adoption rate was 21 percent, per the athenahealth data.

According to Gale Pryor, a senior writer for athenaInsight, the broadband gap is one explanation for this disparity. As of 2015, 64 percent of rural homes have internet access, compared to 74 percent of urban households. As such, patients who live in the remaining “dead zones”—rural regions with no internet access—will not have a direct, convenient connection to their doctors and health records anytime soon. Nor will they benefit from population health services that rely on patient portals, according to the blog post.

Indeed, Pryor wrote that patient portals could also be an aid for managing population health, but only if patients in need of services actually use their portal accounts. And, patients who live in these “dead zones” represent a population with high rates of chronic illness and addiction—the very patients that would most benefit from a 24/7 communication channel with their providers.

What’s more, according to the blog post, even in areas where wired or wireless access is available, rural patients may not be able to take advantage of it. To this end, homes that do have access may still be poverty stricken and cannot afford the services or the computer hardware. And even patients with computers at home can be suspicious of requests for their email addresses, said Pam Born, R.N., practice manager for OhioHealth O’Bleness Hospital Athens Medical Associates Obstetrics and Gynecology in Appalachian Ohio.

Born said that her patients could benefit from healthcare’s increasing focus on improving population health—if they could also share in the nation’s technological bounty. She advises physicians and technology developers to keep the divide in mind.

Get the latest information on Health IT and attend other valuable sessions at this two-day Summit providing healthcare leaders with educational content, insightful debate and dialogue on the future of healthcare and technology.

Learn More



Study will Leverage Connecticut HIE to Help Prevent Suicides

A new study will aim to leverage CTHealthLink, a physician-led health information exchange (HIE) in Connecticut, to help identify the factors leading to suicide and to ultimately help prevent those deaths.

Duke Health First to Achieve HIMSS Stage 7 Rating in Analytics

North Carolina-based Duke Health has become the first U.S. healthcare institution to be awarded the highest honor for analytic capabilities by HIMSS Analytics.

NIH Releases First Dataset from Adolescent Brain Development Study

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the release of the first dataset from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, which will enable scientists to conduct research on the many factors that influence brain, cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Boston Children's Accelerates Data-Driven Approach to Clinical Research

In an effort to bring a more data-driven approach to clinical research, Boston Children’s Hospital has joined the TriNetX global health research network.

Paper Records, Films Most Common Type of Healthcare Data Breach, Study Finds

Despite the high level of hospital adoption of electronic health records and federal incentives to do so, paper and films were the most frequent location of breached data in hospitals, according to a recent study.

AHA Appoints Senior Advisor for Cybersecurity and Risk

The American Hospital Association (AHA) has announced that John Riggi has joined the association as senior advisor for cybersecurity and risk.