Patient difficulty using tablet computers to screen in primary care

J Gen Intern Med. 2008 Apr;23(4):476-80. doi: 10.1007/s11606-007-0500-1.


Background: Patient-administered computerized questionnaires represent a novel tool to assist primary care physicians in the delivery of preventive health care.

Objective: The aim of this study was to assess patient-reported ease of use with a self-administered tablet computer-based questionnaire in routine clinical care.

Design: All patients seen in a university-based primary care practice were asked to provide routine screening information using a touch-screen tablet computer-based questionnaire. Patients reported difficulty using the tablet computer after completion of their first questionnaire.

Patients: Ten thousand nine hundred ninety-nine patients completed the questionnaire between January 2004 and January 2006.

Measurements: We calculated rates of reporting difficulty (no difficulty, some difficulty, or a lot of difficulty) using the tablet computers based on patient age, sex, race, educational attainment, marital status, and number of comorbid medical conditions. We constructed multivariable ordered logistic models to identify predictors of increased self-reported difficulty using the computer.

Results: The majority of patients (84%) reported no difficulty using the tablet computers to complete the questionnaire, with only 3% reporting a lot of difficulty. Significant predictors of reporting more difficulty included increasing age [odds ratio (OR) 1.05, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.05-1.05)]; Asian race (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.8-2.9); African American race (OR 1.4, 95% CI 1.2-1.6); less than a high school education (OR 3.0, 95% CI 2.6-3.4); and the presence of comorbid medical conditions (1-2: OR 1.3, 95% CI 1.2-1.5; > or =3: OR 1.7 95% CI 1.5-2.1).

Conclusions: The majority of primary care patients reported no difficulty using a self-administered tablet computer-based questionnaire. While computerized questionnaires present opportunities to collect routine screening information from patients, attention must be paid to vulnerable groups.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude to Computers*
  • Computers, Handheld*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Group Practice
  • Health Surveys*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical History Taking / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Primary Health Care
  • User-Computer Interface