1Harvard University—Cambridge, Massachusetts 2Massachusetts General Hospital—Mongan Institute for Health Policy
Objective: Examine use of the Internet (eHealth) and mobile health (mHealth) technologies by privately insured, publicly insured (Medicare/Medicaid), or uninsured U.S. adults in 2012. Data Source: Pew Charitable Trust telephone interviews of a nationally representative, random sample of 3,014 adult U.S. residents, age 18+. Methods: Estimate health information seeking behavior overall and by segment (i.e., insurance type), then, adjust estimates for individual traits, clinical need, and technology access using logistic regression. Results: Most respondents prefer offline to online (Internet) health information sources; over half across all segments use the Internet. More respondents communicate with providers offline compared with online. Most self-reported Internet users use online tools for health information, with privately insured respondents more likely to use new technologies. Unadjusted use rates differ across segments. Medicaid beneficiaries are more likely than the privately insured to share health information online, and Medicare beneficiaries are more likely than the privately insured to text with health professionals. After adjustment, these differences were minimal (e.g., Medicare beneficiaries had odds similar to the privately insured of online physician consultations), or the direction of the association reversed (e.g., Medicaid beneficiaries had greater odds than the privately insured of online physician consultations versus lower odds before adjustment). Discussion: Few adults report eHealth or mHealth use in 2012. Use levels appear unevenly distributed across insurance types, which could be mostly attributed to differences in individual traits and/or
need. As out-of-pocket costs of medical care increases, consumers may increasingly turn to these generally free electronic health tools.