Legal, Practical, and Ethical Considerations for Making Online Patient Portals Accessible for All

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Largely driven by the financial incentives of the HITECH Act's Meaningful Use program as part of federal US health care reform, access to portal Web sites has rapidly expanded, allowing many patients to view their medical record information online.Despite this expansion, there is little attention paid to the accessibility of portals for more vulnerable patient populations-especially patients with limited health literacy or limited English proficiency, and individuals with disabilities.We argue that there are potential legal mandates for improving portal accessibility (e.g., the Civil Rights and the Rehabilitation Acts), as well as ethical considerations to prevent the exacerbation of existing health and health care disparities. To address these legal, practical, and ethical considerations, we present standards and broad recommendations that could greatly improve the reach and impact of portal Web sites.

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