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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
38 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Abstract

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, and no clear consensus has yet been formed. 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 to improve the health of older adults.

Methods
Participants, aged over 65 and living in semi-rural 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 GP practice. Four categories of service use data were gathered: use of primary 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 (odds ratio 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 health care utilisation. Further research should explore how older people use the internet to access healthcare, and impact on their health.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere015839
JournalBMJ Open
Volume7
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2017

Keywords

  • Older adults, health service resource use, internet use, panel data, logistic regression, primary care.

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