Study: Move to Digital Health Care Could Leave Some Elderly Behind

November 13, 2014 in News

Elderly U.S. residents with low health literacy likely will benefit less from the health care industry’s move toward digital information sharing than those with adequate health literacy, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, Health Data Management reports (Goth, Health Data Management, 11/13).

Details of Study

The study, titled, “Health Literacy and the Digital Divide Among Older Americans,” examined the relationship between elderly U.S. residents’ health literacy and their Internet use for gathering health information.

Researchers used data from 2009 and 2010 from the Health and Retirement Study on community-dwelling U.S. residents age 65 and older (Levy et al., Journal of General Internal Medicine, 11/12).


Lead author Helen Levy, a research associate professor at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, said the study findings suggest there is a “digital divide when it comes to health care” (Health Data Management, 11/13).

Specifically, researchers found that:

  • 9.7% of elderly residents with low health literacy obtained health information online; and
  • 31.9% of elderly residents with adequate health literacy obtained health information online (Journal of General Internal Medicine, 11/12).

Levy noted that the results suggest the low-literacy group “represent[s] a vulnerable population that’s at high risk of being left behind by the advance of technology.”

To address the divide, researchers recommend that outreach programs use targeted Web-based interventions aimed at increasing older U.S. residents’ health literacy (Health Data Management, 11/13).

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