Lack of patient portal use could hamper COVID-19 vaccine scheduling for seniors

By Alexandra Wilson Pecci

Hospitals that use patient portals for online scheduling should beware of relying on them too heavily for scheduling COVID-19 vaccinations, a new survey suggests.

In addition, the data indicates that revenue cycle leaders should encourage this population to set up online patient portal accounts or allow them to appoint proxies to do so for them.

The National Poll on Healthy Aging finds that older adults—who are among the first in line to receive their COVID-19 vaccines—often don’t have access to patient portals.

It finds that 45% of adults aged 65 to 80, and 42% of adults aged 50 to 80, said they had not set up an account with their health provider’s portal system.

The poll, which is based at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, also shows that the some of the widest gaps in patient portal usage are among older adults who are at the highest risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19.

For instance:

  • Just under 50% of Black older adults, and 53% of Hispanic older adults, lacked an account by June of 2020, compared with 39% of White older adults.
  • Men were less likely than women to have signed up.
  • About 54% of the lower-income older adults did not have a patient portal account, where only 35% of higher-income older adults lacked an account.
  • 53% of those with less than a high school education lacked a patient portal account, compared with 31% of those who had graduated from college.

That’s why reaching out to older adults about online portal access is a critical step for revenue cycle leaders.

“Right now, one important thing that we can do for older adults is encourage and help them to sign up for patient portal access, or log in again if they haven’t in a while, if their provider offers one, and especially if it will be used as part of the COVID-19 vaccination process,” Preeti Malani, M.D., director of the poll and an infectious disease physician at Michigan Medicine, said in a statement.

Other recent research shows that online portal access isn’t the only thing standing in the way of people getting vaccinated.

The Kaiser Family Foundation’s most recent COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor report found that people ages 65 and older who haven’t yet been vaccinated say they don’t have enough information about when (58%) and where (59%) they will be able to get vaccinated.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders. This article was originally published in HealthLeaders Media.

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COVID-19, Patient Safety