Characteristics of older adults using patient web portals to view their DXA results

BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2019 Sep 18;19(1):187. doi: 10.1186/s12911-019-0904-y.


Background: Sharing test results with patients via patient web portals is a new trend in healthcare. No research has been done examining patient web portal use with bone density test results. The objective of our study was to identify patient characteristics associated with the use of patient web portals to view their bone density test results.

Methods: A secondary analysis of data from a pragmatic randomized controlled trial of 7749 participants ≥50 years old that had presented for a dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) bone density test. Patients were interviewed at enrollment and 12 weeks later. Multivariable logistic regression identified patient characteristics that differentiated those who used the web portal from those who did not.

Results: Our sample included 4669 patients at the two (University of Iowa [UI], and Kaiser Permanente of Georgia [KPGA]) clinical sites that had patient web portals. Of these patients, 3399 (72.8%) reported knowing their test results 12 weeks post-DXA, with 649 (13.9%) reporting that they viewed their DXA results using the web portal. Web portal users were more likely to be from UI than KPGA, and were younger, more educated, had higher health literacy, had osteopenia, and had the same sex as their referring physician (all p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Only 19.1% of the 3399 patients who knew their DXA results used the available patient web portals to find out about them. Web portal users differed from non-users on several characteristics. This suggests that simply making patient web portals available for use may not be sufficient to appreciably enhance patient awareness of their test results. Based on these findings, a better understanding of the reasons why older, less educated, and less activated patients do not access their test results through patient web portals is needed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon*
  • Aged
  • Bone Density
  • Female
  • Georgia
  • Health Literacy
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation
  • Patient Portals*
  • Qualitative Research