The Internet: Barrier to health care for older adults?

Insurers, institutional and independent providers of health care have made increasing use of websites for patient communication, in the absence of data indicating that patients, especially older adults, utilize information technology (IT). The current study was designed to determine patient frequency of Internet and IT utilization across age groups. It was hypothesized that use of websites for patient communication might represent a barrier to health care for older adults. Data from 423 preexisting deidentified clinical records were used to determine whether there are differences between age groups in frequency of Internet and other IT utilization across 5 functional domains including health care. Internet and other IT utilization declined significantly with increasing age beyond 60 years. The findings indicate that people over age 65 are not a homogenous population regarding IT use. The decline in frequency using IT also advanced differently for each of 5 functional domains, suggesting that IT use is not a homogenous category. Decreasing frequency of Internet use to access health care showed the strongest association with increasing age. Findings support the hypothesis that use of websites for communicating with older adult populations might create a barrier to access to health care. It is suggested that health care protocols for working with older adults should include Internet and IT utilization as a specific area of assessment or treatment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)