Hispanics' Use of Internet Health Information: An Exploratory Study**

Journal of the Medical Library Association, April 2008 | Go to article overview

Hispanics' Use of Internet Health Information: An Exploratory Study**


Purpose: The research examined use of the Internet to seek health information among Hispanics in the United States.

Methods: A secondary analysis used the Impact of the Internet and Advertising on Patients and Physicians, 2000-2001, survey data. Pearson's χ^sup 2^ test, multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA), analysis of variance (ANOVA), and independent samples t tests were conducted to test for relationships and differences between facets of Hispanic and non-Hispanic white online health information seeking.

Results: Findings indicated lower Internet health information seeking among Hispanics (28.9%, n=72) than non-Hispanic whites (35.6%, n=883). On a scale of 1 (strongly agree) to 4 (strongly disagree), Hispanics were likely to agree that Internet health information improves understanding of medical conditions and treatments (M=1.65), gives patients confidence to talk to doctors about health concerns (M=1.67), and helps patients get treatment they would not otherwise receive (M=2.23). Hispanics viewed their skills in assessing Internet health information as good. Overall ratings were also positive for items related to sharing Internet health information with a doctor. Conflicting with these findings, Hispanics (M=3.33) and non-Hispanic whites (M=3.46) reported that physician-patient relationships worsened as a result of bringing online health information to a visit (scale 1=a lot better to 5=a lot worse).

Conclusion: This study provides further evidence of differences in Internet health information seeking among Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. Cultural discordance may be a possible explanation for Hispanics' view that the Internet negatively impacts physician-patient relationships. Strategies to increase Hispanics' access to Internet health information will likely help them become empowered and educated consumers, potentially having a favorable impact on health outcomes.

INTRODUCTION

A paradox in Internet health information technology is that it is free and available to all; yet, for large segments of the US population, it is not within reach [13]. Disparity in Web access, or the "digital divide," is especially pronounced among Hispanics [1-3].[dagger] Few studies have explored how Hispanics seek and use Internet health information. This preliminary investigation examined Hispanics' Internet health information seeking practices and their perceptions about this experience.

BACKGROUND

Unarguably, the Internet has dramatically transformed health consumerism. On a typical day, 10 million American adult Internet users over 18 years of age search the web for health information [4]. Despite the widespread use of online health information, Hispanics lag behind whites in accessing Internet health information [3-7]. In 2001, the Pew Internet & American Life Project was among the first to document differences between Hispanics (51%) and whites (57%) in using the Internet to seek health information [3].

Inability to access Internet health information support has far-reaching implications. In a technologydriven age, online health information is a necessary resource to guide consumers' decisions regarding staying well and preventing and managing disease [6, 8, 9]. A positive outcome of accessing Internet health information is its impact on physician-patient dynamics. Increased use of the Internet has been a catalyst for a paradigm shift from a passive patient role in the traditional medical model to a more active role in the physician-patient partnership [10, 11].

While the Internet offers many benefits to health consumers, recent trends suggest that many Hispanics cannot take advantage of this resource [1-3]. Reaching out to digitally underserved Hispanics involves addressing issues relevant to access and use of the Internet to seek online health information. Many factors, including income and education, impact Internet access and use for Hispanics and other groups [1, 6,12, 13]. …

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