Factors affecting usage of a personal health record (PHR) to manage health

Jessica Taha, Sara J. Czaja, Joseph Sharit, Daniel G. Morrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As the health care industry shifts into the digital age, patients are increasingly being provided with access to electronic personal health records (PHRs) that are tethered to their provider-maintained electronic health records. This unprecedented access to personal health information can enable patients to more effectively manage their health, but little is actually known about patients' ability to successfully use a PHR to perform health management tasks or the individual factors that influence task performance. This study evaluated the ability of 56 middle-aged adults (40-59 years) and 51 older adults (60-85 years) to use a simulated PHR to perform 15 common health management tasks encompassing medication management, review/interpretation of lab/test results, and health maintenance activities. Results indicated that participants in both age groups experienced significant difficulties in using the PHR to complete routine health management tasks. Data also showed that older adults, particularly those with lower numeracy and technology experience, encountered greater problems using the system. Furthermore, data revealed that the cognitive abilities predicting one's task performance varied according to the complexity of the task. Results from this study identify important factors to consider in the design of PHRs so that they meet the needs of middle-aged and older adults. As deployment of PHRs is on the rise, knowledge of the individual factors that impact effective PHR use is critical to preventing an increase in health care disparities between those who are able to use a PHR and those who are not

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1124-1139
Number of pages16
JournalPsychology and aging
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Age
  • Cognitive ability
  • Health management
  • Numeracy ability
  • Personal health records

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Social Psychology


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