The COVID-19 pandemic forced healthcare providers to up their game with providing virtual care options. These options included telehealth, patient portals and mobile health. However, a lack of digital health literacy has become an issue with these platforms.
To aid in improving digital health literacy and decrease barriers to digital health options, a recent study was completed. The study, performed by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, involved 508 adult participants. Study participants included caregivers of children who received care at a pediatric clinic. Additional information about the study participant group included:
- Almost 90% were women
- Average age was 34.7 years
- About 55% of the participants identified English as their primary language
- 45% had a high school diploma or less
- Digital access: 37.6% did not own a laptop, 78.9% did not own a desktop computer and 5.9% claimed they did not have internet access. About 41.5% of survey respondents claimed to have not used a health app.
A Digital Health Literacy Scale with three items was developed and tested to help identify patients who don’t benefit from virtual care services. The three items are:
- I can use applications/programs on my cell phone, computer, or another electronic device on my own (without asking for help from someone else).
- I can set up a video chat using my cell phone, computer, or another electronic device on my own (without asking for help from someone else).
- I can solve or figure out how to solve basic technical issues on my own (without asking for help from someone else).
Results from using the scale included:
- There was a positive association with income and education, i.e., higher income and/or higher education levels had better digital health literacy.
- English speakers had higher scores that those who spoke Spanish or Arabic.
- Participants who owned a smartphone or laptop had higher scores than those who did not.