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The relationship between patient experience and real-world digital health access in primary care: a population-based cross-sectional study


Implementing digital health technologies in primary care is anticipated to improve patient experience. We examined the relationships between patient experience and digital health access in primary care settings in Ontario, Canada. We conducted a retrospective cross-sectional study using patient responses to the Health Care Experience Survey linked to health and administrative data between April 2019-February 2020. We measured patient experience by summarizing HCES questions. We used multivariable logistic regression stratified by the number of primary care visits to investigate associations between patient experience with digital health access and moderating variables. Our cohort included 2,692 Ontario adults, of which 63.0% accessed telehealth, 2.6% viewed medical records online, and 3.6% booked appointments online. Although patients reported overwhelmingly positive experiences, we found no consistent relationship with digital health access. Online appointment booking access was associated with lower odds of poor experience for patients with three or more primary care visits in the past 12 months (adjusted odds ratio 0.16, 95% CI 0.02-0.56). Younger age, tight financial circumstances, English as a second language, and knowing their primary care provider for fewer years had greater odds of poor patient experience. In 2019/2020, we found limited uptake of digital health in primary care and no clear association between real-world digital health adoption and patient experience in Ontario. Our findings provide an essential context for ensuing rapid shifts in digital health adoption during the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as a baseline to reexamine subsequent improvements in patient experience.



Pasat Z, Sinn CJ, Rahman B, Gayowsky A, Lokker C, Tarride JE, Alarakhia M, Costa AP. PLoS One. 2024; 19(5):e0299005. Epub 2024 May 7.

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