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  • School of Public Health

    AG 8: Demography and health  

    Campus der Universität Bielefeld
    © Universität Bielefeld

Diversity in e-health use

Rapid technological changes have resulted in the widespread use of the internet for health purposes (e-health use). E-health use can encompass a range of activities, such as searching for a new doctor, preparing for or following up on a doctor’s appointment, purchasing medications, managing personal health records, and as a means of communication between patients and doctors. Growing interest in e-health use has fueled research documenting its general trends and determinants, as well as how it modifies users’ health behaviors. A blossoming subset of research investigating variations in e-health use by gender has produced a mixed bag of results. Most previous statistics on e-health use have been generated by surveys of patients and physician practices or through social media, which may not be representative of the general population.

To understand whether e-health use is patterned by gender and other socio-demographic characteristics, large-scale population studies are needed.

Using an exceptional data source covering the whole Danish population, this project will describe trends in e-health use in the country from 2005 (the first year when email communication was introduced into the Danish healthcare system) onwards and provide a comprehensive assessment of its socio-demographic determinants. By linking the data source with various surveys available in Denmark, as well as register data on hospitalization and medication use, it will also investigate for which health conditions e-health use is most common and beneficial. Given the rapid increase on the reliance of technology for communication in providing health care over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be informative to investigate how these patterns have changed.

Since health information technologies are in process of being integrated into the German healthcare system, this project will provide timely and important insights into understanding the socio-demographic patterning of e-health use. We will investigate, for example, whether the adoption of information technologies is universal across diverse population groups and whether internet-enabled communication reinforces the female advantage with health-seeking behaviors relative to men. These findings can be further used to design specific programs aiming to improve knowledge of and skills in e-health use among these specific groups. They can also be used to accommodate the needs of a growing population of disabled older people, especially those residing in remote regions with limited healthcare services.

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