Low Health Literacy and the “Digital Divide” in Older Adults

November 19, 2014 | Strategic Insights for Health System


​Although patients' ability to interact online with their records is a criterion for meaningful use of electronic health records (EHRs), "many older Americans may be unprepared to do this, particularly those with low levels of health literacy," state the authors of a study published online November 12, 2014, in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. The researchers analyzed 2009 and 2010 data from the Health and Retirement Study for a sample of community-dwelling U.S. adults age 65 or older. They examined data regarding older adults who reported using the Internet regularly for any reason and those who reported using the Internet to obtain health information "sometimes" or "often." They also examined health literacy, as assessed using the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine–Revised (REALM-R). Only 22% of older adults with low health literacy reported regularly using the Internet for any purpose, compared with 55% of those with adequate health literacy.

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