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Not Speaking the Same Language-Lower Portal Use for Limited English Proficient Patients in the Los Angeles Safety Net.

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With the expansion of online patient portals linked to electronic health records in safety-net health care settings, we need more data on the use of these websites by patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) in order to guide their continued design, implementation, and evaluation as portals for the underserved.


Cross-sectional portal data for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, the second largest safety-net system in the nation. We examined differences in portal use across language (English vs. non-English/LEP), covering four years since implementation.


Of 425,281 patients assigned to primary care as of March 2019, 55,190 (13%) unique portal enrollments were registered. Among 54,981 portal users, LEP users had lower adjusted odds of using an active portal function (e.g., medication refill) vs. English-speakers.


Even among those registered to access portals, these websites are underused, particularly by LEP patients. All systems must facilitate use for these populations, especially for time-saving active functions, which can improve outcomes. Health systems must prioritize design/usability as a factor to counter LEP underuse.

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