Submission Type

Case Study


Electronic Health Records, Data Collection, Population Health, Epidemiology, Bias


Introduction: With the growing use of electronic medical records, electronic health records (EHRs), and personal health records (PHRs) for health care delivery, new opportunities have arisen for population health researchers. Our objective was to characterize PHR users and examine sample representativeness and nonresponse bias in a study of pregnant women recruited via the PHR.

Design: Demographic characteristics were examined for PHR users and nonusers. Enrolled study participants (responders, n=187) were then compared with nonresponders and a representative sample of the target population.

Results: PHR patient portal users (34 percent of eligible persons) were older and more likely to be White, have private health insurance, and develop gestational diabetes than nonusers. Of eligible persons (all PHR users), 11 percent (187/1,713) completed a self-administered PHR‑based questionnaire. Participants in the research study were more likely to be non-Hispanic White (90 percent versus 79 percent) and married (85 percent versus 77 percent), and were less likely to be Non-Hispanic Black (3 percent versus 12 percent) or Hispanic (3 percent versus 6 percent). Responders and nonresponders were similar regarding age distribution, employment status, and health insurance status. Demographic characteristics were similar between responders and nonresponders.

Discussion: Demographic characteristics of the study population differed from the general population, consistent with patterns seen in traditional population-based studies. The PHR may be an efficient method for recruiting and conducting observational research with additional benefits of efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.