Exploring the relationship between frequent internet use and health and social care resource use in a community-based cohort of older adults: an observational study in primary care

Caroline S Clarke, Jeff Round, Stephen Morris, Kalpa Kharicha, John Ford, Jill Manthorpe, Steve Iliffe, Claire Goodman, Kate Walters

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9 Citations (Scopus)
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Objectives: Given many countries’ ageing populations, policymakers must consider how to mitigate or reduce health problems associated with old age, within budgetary constraints. Evidence of use of digital technology in delaying the onset of illness and reducing healthcare service use is mixed, with no clear consensus as yet. Our aim was to investigate the relationship between frequent internet use and patterns of health or social care resource use in primary care attendees who took part in a study seeking to improve the health of older adults. Methods: Participants recruited from primary care, aged >65 and living in semirural or urban areas in the south of England, were followed up at 3 and 6 months after completing a comprehensive questionnaire with personalised feedback on their health and well-being. We performed logistic regression analyses to investigate relationships between frequent internet use and patterns of service use, controlling for confounding factors, and clustering by general practitioner practice. Four categories of service use data were gathered: use of primary National Health Service (NHS) care; secondary NHS care; other community health and social care services; and assistance with washing, shopping and meals. Results: Our results show, in this relatively healthy population, a positive relationship (OR 1.72, 95% CI 1.33 to 2.23) between frequent internet use and use of any other community-based health services (physiotherapist, osteopath/chiropractor, dentist, optician/optometrist, counselling service, smoking cessation service, chiropodist/podiatrist, emergency services, other non-specific health services) and no relationship with the other types of care. No causal relationship can be postulated due to the study’s design. Conclusions: No observed relationship between frequent internet use and primary or secondary care use was found, suggesting that older adults without internet access are not disadvantaged regarding healthcare use. Further research should explore how older people use the internet to access healthcare and the impact on health.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere015839
JournalBMJ Open
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017

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