Jennifer L. Wolff, PhD. Associate Professor of Health Policy and Management Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Navigating health system demands and managing treatments can be difficult, particularly for individuals with complex health needs who are often under the care of multiple providers.
Objective To describe the characteristics and online practices of patients and “care partners” who share explicit access to a patient portal account at a large integrated health system that implemented shared access functionality in 2003.
Materials and Methods Survey of 323 patients and 389 care partners at Geisinger Health System with linked information regarding access and use of patient portal functionality.
Results Few (0.4%) registered adult patient portal users shared access to their account. Patients varied in age (range: 18–102); more than half had a high school education or less (53.6%). Patient motivations for sharing access included: to help manage care (41.9%), for emergency reasons (29.7%), lack of technology experience (18.4%), or care partner request (10.0%).
Health information technology has been embraced as a strategy to facilitate patients’ access to their health information and engagement in care. However, not all patients are able to access, or are capable of using, a computer or mobile device. Although family caregivers assist individuals with some of the most challenging and costly health needs, their role in health information technology is largely undefined and poorly understood. This perspective discusses challenges and opportunities of engaging family caregivers through the use of consumer-oriented health information technology.