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Telemedicine Used by Affluent Urbanites

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Although rural areas, where health care providers might not be close or easily accessible to patients, could really benefit from telemedicine, its users are more likely to live in an urban area.

Although rural areas, where health care providers might not be close or easily accessible to patients, could really benefit from telemedicine, its users are more likely to live in an urban area, according to a new report.

“Exploring the Digital Nation: America’s Emerging Online Experience” by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) touches on how Americans use the internet for health care, among other areas.

Going online to find health plans or research practitioners is fairly common, reported by 35% of internet users. Younger Americans were more likely to use the internet for this health care research, as were people living in urban areas. More than a third (37%) of people in urban areas researched health plans or practitioners online, compared to 26% of people who live in rural areas.

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College graduates were also far more likely to use the internet for health care research, with 47% reporting having done so compared with just 19% of those lacking a high school diploma. Those family incomes over $100,000 were also nearly twice as likely as those with family incomes below $25,000 to go online to research health care information.

The same sort of demographic and socioeconomic differences were present among users who went online to find health information for self-diagnosis or treatment, which was even more common than using the internet to research health plans or health practitioners.

However, online interaction with health care professionals and telemedicine were much less common. Just 7% of users reported going online to access medical records, participate in video conferencing with a doctor or take advantage of remote procedures like heart rate monitoring.

Although this telemedicine wasn’t common among any demographic group, people living in urban areas were twice as likely to participate in telemedicine. There were few racial disparities evident in telemedicine utilization, although Asian Americans were more likely than whites, African Americans or Hispanics to undertake these activities. However, telemedicine is not as advanced as other online health care-related activities.

“The relatively low uptake of telemedicine in rural areas suggests that it has not yet reached its potential, especially given that some experts consider telemedicine particularly important in rural areas where medical professionals may be miles away,” the NTIA wrote in its report.


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