Internet Opens Path to Healthcare for People of Modest Means in the USA

By June 25, 2012
sick woman and computer

Less well-off families in the United States are more likely to have an Internet connection than health insurance and they are also keen on receiving medical advice electronically, which means that medical follow-up could be provided at lower cost.

According to the latest statistics, 46.2 million people in the United States, i.e. 15.1% of the population, live below the poverty line. Given the current state of the health system there, these economically disadvantaged people have very few options when it comes to healthcare. Now a study carried out by the emergency services of the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. has discovered that the prevalence of Internet and social media use among this group might well provide a path to health information. A survey carried out among 509 low-income families shows that only 397 had ‘public’ health insurance while close to 98.8% had Internet access.

Various ways of making the connection

This is an astonishing figure, given that 98.8% equates to 503 families out of the 509. And of these 503 families, 166 say they have an Internet connection at home and 112 on a mobile device, thus opening up the possibility of receiving personalised remote medical advice. The survey also found that 166 of the families surveyed have access to the Internet at work. Moreover this segment of the population also appears to have various other means of digital communication at their fingertips, with 96% of them reporting that they have an email address and 60.4% pointing to a Facebook profile, and they apparently go online regularly: some 70.1% say they go on to the Internet every day, while 25.4% claim to do so two to six times a week.

Economically disadvantaged families keen to communicate

The fact that these Internet-savvy Americans expressed a clear interest in obtaining remote medical advice makes the survey results all the more promising for medical institutions. The report reveals that 259 families out of the 509 surveyed stated they would have no hesitations about communicating with a doctor via email. In addition, a third of them would be interested in using electronic channels for communicating with their children’s doctor. As far as the Children’s National Medical Center is concerned, this represents a real opportunity. Online communications could be used to provide medical education and care instructions to parents, for example to warn them about the risks of accidents in the home, which might go some way towards helping to avoid overloading the emergency services, the report suggests.

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