Many doctors offer patients online access to certain parts of their electronic medical records, including immunization records, lab results, safe and correct use of medications and reminders for visits and screenings.
However, this study suggests that older Americans are being left behind when it comes to the benefits of electronic medical records.
University of Michigan researchers analyzed data from the long-running Health and Retirement Study at the university, and found that less than a third of adults aged 65 and older use the Internet for health information, and barely 10 percent of those with a low level of health literacy — the ability to navigate the health system — go online for health-related matters.
The findings were published recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.
“In recent years we have invested many resources in Web-based interventions to help improve people’s health, such as electronic health records designed to help patients become more active participants in their care. But many older Americans, especially those with low health literacy, may not be prepared for these new tools,” study author Helen Levy, a research associate professor at the university’s Institute for Social Research, said in a university news release.
“Our findings suggest that there’s a digital divide when it comes to health care. Older adults with low health literacy especially represent a vulnerable population that’s at high risk of being left behind by the advance of technology,” she added.
“Health information technology promises significant benefits, but it also comes with the risk that these benefits won’t be shared equally,” study senior author Dr. Kenneth Langa, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and research investigator at the Center for Clinical Management Research at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System, said in the news release.
“The Internet is becoming central to health care delivery, but older Americans with low health literacy face barriers that may sideline them in this era of technology. Programs need to consider interventions that target health literacy among older adults to help narrow the gap and reduce the risk of deepening disparities in health access and outcomes,” Langa said.
HealthIT.gov has more about information health technology.
SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, Nov. 12, 2014
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