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January 22/29, 2014

Care Partners and Online Patient Portals

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
  • 2Center for Vulnerable Populations, San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, San Francisco, California
  • 3Division of General Internal Medicine and Primary Care, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 4Partners HealthCare, Department of Health Policy and Management, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts
JAMA. 2014;311(4):357-358. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.285825

Each year, more than 65 million people in the United States (29% to 39% of the population) provide care for a chronically ill, disabled, or elderly family member or friend.1 Such caregivers, who help with both basic life functions and managing medical care, are critical to helping people maintain their health and remain in their communities.2 Many chronically ill and older people also have loved ones who, distinct from caregivers, serve as “care partners.” These care partners do not provide day-to-day care or serve as surrogate decision makers but do help navigate health care—facilitating communication with physicians, discussing complex issues requiring shared decision making, and assisting with challenging self-management tasks. The care partner or partners may include a spouse, parent, friend, or relative who assists with health, perhaps across geographic distance.

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