Significant disparities exist in use of self-scheduled x-ray exams, research shows

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A number of socio-demographic factors determine whether patients are more likely to use online portals to schedule screening mammograms themselves.

When analyzing the records of more than 46,000 women eligible for screening mammograms, researchers found that less than 1% took advantage of online self-scheduling tools. The women who used the online platforms turned out to be younger, white, English-speaking, non-Hispanic people who lived in areas with better access to computers and the internet.

“Telehealth technologies, such as patient portals, provide patients with increased convenience and direct access to diagnostic results and potentially increase patients’ sense of ownership and empowerment over their overall health by enabling messaging communication with providers and scheduling their appointments using this app,” corresponding author Patricia Balthazar, MD, of the Department of Radiology and Imaging Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine at Atlanta, and the co-authors explained. “The growing availability of computers and mobile devices can improve patient access and engagement with their electronic health records (EHRs) through the use of online patient portals.”

Since the onset of COVID, telehealth services have increased dramatically. While the availability of remote consultations and scheduling is convenient and beneficial to many, it has also brought to light disparities in health care. The technology is used less in underserved communities, minority groups, socioeconomically disadvantaged people, and older populations. Therefore, this limits the benefits of patient portals for self-scheduled radiology exams to those for whom digital access is readily available.

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