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Mature Focus: Nov. 7

Passing on patient portals

Many seniors who could benefit from using online patient portals to access their medical records never do so, according to a University of Missouri study.

University of Missouri researchers have found that many people who could benefit the most from online patient portals connected to their electronic medical records don’t use them at all, even after signing up for them.

Online portals allow patients to have secure, immediate access to their detailed test results and other medical records. For patients dealing with multiple health conditions, the portals can be especially useful in monitoring their health status, so they are encouraged by doctors to use them. However, the MU researchers found that 35 percent of people who registered for electronic patient portals never even logged in.

“We were troubled to see that so many patients never used the portal,” said Kimberly Powell, a post-doctoral fellow in aging, informatics and quality research at MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing. “We only looked at registered users, and registering for the portal is a two-step process that suggests a degree of commitment. The fact that many people who took the time to register never logged in to the portal indicates there is still work to be done.”

The MU study included patients who were at least 45 years old, had registered for an electronic patient portal and had at least two chronic conditions. Although previous studies have measured the success of patient portals by the number of people who registered, this study looked at how many registered users actually logged in afterward.

Researchers also identified several factors that influenced portal use among those who did utilize them. In particular, patients who lived farther from their primary care providers were more likely to use the portal, as were those diagnosed with heart failure.

Powell said patient portals have the potential to improve shared decision-making in care facilities such as nursing homes, but providers must first integrate portals more seamlessly into clinical care and help guide patients in how to use them.

Widespread disability

About a quarter of all U.S. adults currently are classified as having a disability – but the type of disability tends to vary by age, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC].

The CDC’s most recent Morbidity and Mortality Report noted that cognitive disabilities such as serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions are more common among younger adults, while disabilities involving mobility are more common among older Americans. 

Overall, mobility disabilities are also the most widespread [13.7 percent], followed by cognition [10.8 percent], independent living involving difficulty doing errands alone [6.8 percent], hearing [5.9 percent], vision [4.6 percent] and difficulties with self-care [3.7 percent].

In addition to mobility disability, hearing and independent living disabilities were much more common among older people. Women of any age are more likely to be living with a disability than men, with the exception of hearing and self-care.

“At some point in their lives, most people will either have a disability or know someone who has one,” Coleen Boyle, director of CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, said of the report. “Learning more about people with disabilities in the United States can help us better understand and meet their health needs.”

On the calendar

Free osteoporosis screenings for women are available on Monday, Nov. 12 from 2-4 p.m. at Kathryn Linneman Branch Library, 2323 Elm St. in St. Charles. Advance registration is required at bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events or by calling (636) 928-WELL (9355).

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The St. Charles City-County Library hosts a Medicare open enrollment assistance program on Tuesday, Nov. 13 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at its Kathryn Linneman Branch, 2323 Elm St. in St. Charles. Volunteers from the CLAIM State Health Insurance Assistance Program will be on hand to provide open enrollment assistance for 2019 Medicare plans. Appointments are preferred and can be made by calling 1-(800)-390-3330, but walk-ins are also welcome.

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BJC presents a Lunch and Learn program focused on kidney health on Wednesday, Nov. 14 from noon-1 p.m. at Middendorf-Kredell Branch Library, 2750 Hwy. K in O’Fallon. Dr. Andrew Blackburne from St. Louis Urology will discuss the myths and facts about kidneys and what you can do to stay healthy. Refreshments will be served. The program is free. Advance registration is required by visiting bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events or by calling (636) 928-WELL (9355). 

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An AARP Smart Driver Course is offered on Wednesday, Nov. 14 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital, 10 Hospital Drive in St. Peters, in Medical Office Building 1, Suite 117. This four-hour training course will help seniors tune up their driving skills, update their knowledge of the rules of the road and provide education on age-related physical changes to reduce traffic violations, crashes and chances of injuries. Some insurance companies also offer a discount to participants. The course fee is $15 for AARP members and $20 for non-members [payable on AARP on the day of training]. Space is limited. Register online at bjcstcharlescounty.org/Events or by calling (636) 928-WELL (9355).

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