The Use of Online Health-Management Tools and Health Care Utilization Among Older Americans.

TitleThe Use of Online Health-Management Tools and Health Care Utilization Among Older Americans.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsLiu, D, Yamashita, T, Burston, B, Keene, JR
ISSN Number1758-5341
KeywordsInequities, information and communication technology, Race/ethnicity, Social determinants of health

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: The digital divide, or differences in access to technology, can have far-reaching consequences. This study identified disparities in access to online health-related technology. It then investigated associations between online health-related technology use and health care utilization among older adults in the United States.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: The study used a cross-sectional data set of 1,497 adults aged 51 and older from the 2014 Health and Retirement Study (HRS)'s supplemental module (Health Behaviors) and the RAND version of the HRS fat file.

RESULTS: Older age, being a racial/ethnic minority, married, uninsured, and having lower educational attainment, lower income, and reporting poorer health were each associated with lower levels of use of online health-management tools. The use of online health-management tools was associated with a 34% greater mean number of doctor visits (incidence rate ratio = 1.34, SE = 0.10, p < .05) than nonuse. However, such use was not associated with the number or type of hospitalizations. Indeed, only health care needs as measured by self-rated health status (odds ratio [OR] = 0.58, SE = 0.18, p < .05) and the number of chronic conditions were associated with hospitalizations (OR = 1.68, SE = 0.07, p < .05).

DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS: While more research is needed to clarify the purposes (e.g., prevention vs. treatment) and outcomes of health care service utilization as a function of technology use, it may be wise to proactively tackle the digital divide as one upstream strategy for improving various health and health care outcomes among older adults.

Citation Key11080
PubMed ID32525983