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Health Information Technology Use Among US Adults

Increasing numbers of consumers manage their own health care through Internet and other health information technology activities, including chat rooms and communications with health care providers.

Graph: Adults aged 18-64 who looked up health information on the Internet, 2009 - Both sexes: 50.8%; Men: 43.4%; Women: 58.0%.  
Graph: Adults aged 18-64 who used online chat groups to learn about health topics - Both sexes: 3.3%; Men: 2.5%; Women: 4.1%.

The dynamic involvement of consumers in managing their own health care includes activities such as the use of computers (hardware and software) to access, retrieve, store, or share health care information. This may include using the Internet to look up health information, using e-mail or text messaging to communicate with health care providers or pharmacies, and having an electronic health record. As the percentage of adults in the U.S. who use the Internet continues to grow, the Internet may become increasingly important as a source of health information for consumers. Although use of the Internet has the potential to improve consumer health by facilitating communication between providers and patients, and among providers, previous research (1) has found that many consumers are concerned about security and confidentiality issues related to scheduling medical appointments or accessing personal health records online.

Health information technology (HIT) is the application of information processing-through computer hardware and software-to the storage, retrieval, sharing, and use of health care information, data, and knowledge for communication and decision making (2). Research on HIT use has shown that 74% of adults in the U.S. use the Internet, and 61% have used the Internet to search for health or medical information (3). Additionally, 49% of adults have accessed a website that provides information about a specific medical condition or problem. Adults between the ages of 18 and 49 are more likely than older adults to use HIT.

The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) was the first nationally representative household survey to collect data on the use of HIT. In 2009, NHIS included five questions on HIT. This Health E-Stat provides preliminary estimates of HIT use among men and women aged 18-64, using NHIS data collected from January through June 2009.

From January through June 2009, 51% of adults aged 18-64 had used the Internet to look up health information during the past 12 months.

Over 3% of adults aged 18-64 had used an online chat group to learn about health topics in the past 12 months.

Among adults aged 18-64, women were more likely than men to look up health information on the Internet (58.0% versus 43.4%) and were also more likely to use online chat groups to learn about health topics (4.1% versus 2.5%).

From January through June 2009, almost 5% of adults aged 18-64 had communicated with a health care provider by e-mail in the past 12 months .

During the first 6 months of 2009, 6% of adults aged 18-64 requested a refill of a prescription on the Internet, and almost 3% had made an appointment with a health care provider in the past 12 months using the Internet.

Among adults aged 18¬64, women were more likely than men to request a prescription refill on the Internet (6.6% versus 5.3%), make an appointment using the Internet (3.5% versus 1.8%), and communicate with a health care provider over e-mail (5.6% versus 4.2 %).

Graph: Adults aged 18-64 who in the past 12 months used the Internet to communicate with a health care provider over e-mail, refill a prescription, or schedule an appointment with a health care provider, by sex: United States, January – June 2009

Data Source

Cohen RA, Stussman B. Health information technology use among men and women aged 18-64: Early release of estimates from the National Health Interview Survey, January-June 2009. Health E-Stats. National Center for Health Statistics. February 2010.

References

California HealthCare Foundation. Snapshot: The state of health information technology in California [PDF - 1.3 MB] [online]. 2008.

Brailer D, Thompson T. Health IT strategic framework. Washington, DC: Department of Health and Human Services. 2004.

Fox S, Jones S. The social life of health information [online]. Pew Internet and American Life Project. 2009.

More Information

  • Page last reviewed: October 8, 2010
  • Page last updated: October 8, 2010
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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