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Health Informatics J. 2011 Sep;17(3):224-43. doi: 10.1177/1460458211414843.

Exploring digital divides: an examination of eHealth technology use in health information seeking, communication and personal health information management in the USA.

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College of Communication and Information, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA.


Recent government initiatives to deploy health information technology in the USA, coupled with a growing body of scholarly evidence linking online heath information and positive health-related behaviors, indicate a widespread belief that access to health information and health information technologies can help reduce healthcare inequalities. However, it is less clear whether the benefits of greater access to online health information and health information technologies is equitably distributed across population groups, particularly to those who are underserved. To examine this issue, this article employs the 2007 Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) to investigate relationships between a variety of socio-economic variables and the use of the web-based technologies for health information seeking, personal health information management and patient-provider communication within the context of the USA. This study reveals interesting patterns in technology adoption, some of which are in line with previous studies, while others are less clear. Whether these patterns indicate early evidence of a narrowing divide in eHealth technology use across population groups as a result of the narrowing divide in Internet access and computer ownership warrants further exploration. In particular, the findings emphasize the need to explore differences in the use of eHealth tools by medically underserved and disadvantaged groups. In so doing, it will be important to explore other psychosocial variables, such as health literacy, that may be better predictors of health consumers' eHealth technology adoption.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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