18-20 March 2015
Cologne University of Applied Sciences, Germany
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B 11: Global ICT Challenges
Online health information and use of online health services: A test of the digital divide paradigm among the chronically ill in Israel
University of Haifa, Israel
Relevance & Research Question: Studies on the use of online information and the social diversification hypothesis (Mesch et al., 2012) provide ample evidence about the consequences of lack/low use of exposure to online information has for individuals. The study examines the relationship between (a) access and use of online health information and (b) use of online health services and focus on individuals with a chronic illness. We combine internet use theories and the digital divide paradigm with health empowerment hypotheses. We ask how the relationship between access of online health information and use of online health services materializes among individuals with a diagnosed chronic illness relatively to those who are in good health.
Methods & Data: A telephone survey was conducted in 2010 in Israel among 4000 individuals. 2008 individuals completed interviews (54% response rate). 70% were Internet users (n = 1371).
Results: We show that for most individuals suffering from a chronic illness online health information is a viable way for health empowerment similarly to non-ill individuals but not regarding use of online health services. Distinguishing between type of online health services is important too. Hypertension decreases the use of online health services and diabetes has no effect whatsoever. A heart condition increases the use of online services for updates but not for making appointments.
Added Value: Access and use of online health services is a quickly developing area of health prevention and health promotion in affluent societies. The situation where individuals with chronic illness do access online health information and yet do not use online health services raises questions about the contribution of chronic illness to social disadvantage that has been seldom approached as such in existing literature. Chronic illness carries the characteristics of “second level” digital divide effect since a wide range of health services is now delivered online and health insurance firms presume that this type of services will increase over time raising the possibility that correlates of chronic illness, e.g. age and education are important in designing online health services
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