Where's the Revolution? Digital Technology and Health Care in the Internet Age
Despite the growing use of online resources, it is unclear how many Americans are using the World Wide Web for different health-related purposes and whether factors promoting use of the Internet in health care correspond with those affecting more traditional in-person and telemedicine encounters. This research uses a national public opinion survey to examine the degree to which health care consumers communicate through conventional, face-to-face consultation, telemedicine, or digital technology, and the relationship between these means of communication and respondent characteristics. Results indicate that few people are using digital technology to get information, communicate with health personnel, or make online medical purchases. Furthermore, less well educated, lower-income individuals living in rural areas tend to use the health care Internet less than others. Several policy measures need to be undertaken in order to accelerate the appropriate use of digital technology by health care consumers of all kinds. These include improving education and technological literacy and providing access to low-cost digital technology. Without a consumer complement to prevailing efforts to spur health information technology development and implementation on the part of providers, the promise of the digital revolution will continue to be limited to certain better-connected segments of the population.