The digital divide phenomenon in a hand surgery outpatient clinic.
The Internet has become an important source of medical information for patients. However, the availability of this resource for individuals in the lower socioeconomic groups is limited, a concept termed the digital divide. To evaluate this phenomenon, we conducted a survey study to quantify the accessibility and use of the Internet for obtaining medical information in an outpatient hand surgery clinic population. A 28-question survey was distributed to 207 patients concerning computer accessibility, Internet use for medical and nonmedical information, Internet trust and security, and patient economic demographics. After analysis of the data, we found individuals in households with higher incomes had a greater likelihood of owning computers than those in lower income brackets. As income increases, the time spent on the Internet also increases. Another statistically significant trend was that higher income patient households thought that Internet information was trustworthy, secure, and private compared with the lower income brackets. We concluded that clinical settings where the predominant patient population earns less than $18,000 may not benefit or use physician Internet-based services or information. The concept of the digital divide seems to be a real phenomenon in the clinical practice of orthopaedics.
Parekh, SG; Sodha, S; McGuire, KJ; Bozentka, DJ; Rozental, TD; Beredjiklian, PK
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