Abstract Background: Patient web portals (PWPs) offer patients remote access to their medical record and communication with providers. Adults with health literacy limitations are less likely to access and use health information technology (HIT), including PWPs. In diabetes, PWP use has been associated with patient satisfaction, patient-provider communication, and glycemic control.
Methods: Using mixed methods, we explored the relationships between health literacy, numeracy, and computer literacy and the usage of a PWP and HIT. Participants (N=61 adults with type 2 diabetes) attended focus groups and completed surveys, including measures of health literacy, numeracy, and computer anxiety (an indicator of computer literacy) and frequency of PWP and HIT use.
Results: Computer literacy was positively associated with health literacy (r=0.41, P<0.001) and numeracy (r=0.35, P<0.001), but health literacy was not associated with numeracy. Participants with limited health literacy (23%), numeracy (43%), or computer literacy (25%) were no less likely to access PWPs or HIT, but lower health literacy was associated with less frequent use of a computer to research diabetes medications or treatments. In focus groups, participants spontaneously commented on family support when accessing and using PWPs or HIT for diabetes management.
Conclusions: Participants reported family members facilitated access and usage of HIT, taught them usage skills, and acted as online delegates. Participant statements suggest family members may bridge the HIT "digital divide" in diabetes by helping adults access a PWP or HIT for diabetes management.