Optimization of primary care among black Americans using patient portals: Qualitative study

Omar H. Ordaz, Raina L. Croff, La Troy D. Robinson, Steven A. Shea, Nicole P. Bowles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Reduced patient portal use has previously been reported among Black Americans when compared with that of the general population. This statistic is concerning because portals have been shown to improve the control of chronic conditions that are more prevalent and severe in Black Americans. At their very simplest, portals allow patients to access their electronic health records and often provide tools for patients to interact with their own health information, treatment team members, and insurance companies. However, research suggests that Black American patients have greater concerns over a lack of support, loss of privacy, and reduced personalization of care compared with other Americans, which results in a disparity of portal use. Objective: This qualitative investigation of primary care experiences of Black Americans from across the United States who participated in remote focus groups in April and May 2020 aims to explore the use and perceived value of patient portals to better understand any barriers to optimized treatment in the primary care setting. Methods: We performed an inductive thematic analysis of 8 remote focus group interviews with 29 Black American patients aged 30-60 years to qualitatively assess the experiences of Black American patients with regular access to portals. Results: Thematic analysis uncovered the following interrelated themes regarding patient portals in primary care: the optimization of care, patient empowerment, patient-provider communication, and patient burden. Conclusions: In contrast to what has been described regarding the reluctance of Black Americans to engage with patient portals, our focus groups revealed the general acceptance of patient portals, which were described overwhelmingly as tools with the potential for providing exceptional, personalized care that may even work to mitigate the unfair burden of disease for Black Americans in primary care settings. Thus, opportunities for better health care will clearly arise with increased communication, experience, and adoption of remote health care practices among Black Americans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere27820
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Health belief model
  • Health disparities
  • Health promotion
  • Patient engagement
  • Technology acceptance model
  • Telehealth
  • Telemedicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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