Currently accepted at: Journal of Medical Internet Research
Date Submitted: May 14, 2018
Open Peer Review Period: May 15, 2018 - Jul 10, 2018
Date Accepted: Sep 23, 2018
(closed for review but you can still tweet)
eHealth Engagement as a Response to Negative Healthcare Experiences: Cross-Sectional Survey Analysis
eHealth provides individuals with new means of accessing health information and communicating with providers through online channels. Prior evidence suggests that patients use eHealth to find information online when they receive care that is low in patient centeredness. However, it is unclear how other problems with the healthcare-delivery system motivate the use of eHealth, how these problems relate to different kinds of eHealth activities, and which populations are most likely to use eHealth when they receive low-quality care.
We aimed to determine how two types of negative care experiencesâ€”low patient centeredness and care coordination problemsâ€”motivate the use of different eHealth activities, and whether more highly educated individuals, who may find these tools easier to use, are more likely to use eHealth following negative experiences than less highly educated individuals.
Using nationally representative data from the 2017 Health Information National Trends Survey, we used factor analysis to group 25 different eHealth activities into categories based on the correlation between respondentsâ€™ reports of their usage. Subsequently, we used multivariate negative binomial generalized linear model regressions to determine whether negative healthcare experiences predicted greater use of these resulting categories. Finally, we stratified our sample based on education level to determine whether the associations between healthcare experiences and eHealth use differed across groups.
The study included 2612 individuals. Factor analysis classified the eHealth activities into two categories: provider-facing (eg, facilitating communication with providers) and independent (eg, patient-driven information seeking and communication with non-providers). Negative care experiences were not associated with provider-facing eHealth activity in the overall population (care coordination: P=.16; patient centeredness: P=.57) or among more highly educated respondents (care coordination: P=.73; patient centeredness: P=.32), but respondents with lower education levels who experienced problems with care coordination used provider-facing eHealth more often (IRR=1.40, P=.07). Individuals engaged in more independent eHealth activities if they experienced problems with either care coordination (IRR=1.15 P=.01) or patient-centered communication (IRR=1.16, P=.01). Although care coordination problems predicted independent eHealth activity across education levels (higher education: IRR=1.13 P=.01; lower education: IRR=1.19, P=.07), the relationship between low perceived patient centeredness and independent activity was limited to individuals with lower education levels (IRR=1.25, P=.02).
Individuals use a greater number of eHealth activities, especially activities that are independent of healthcare providers, when they experience problems with their healthcare. People with lower levels of education seem particularly inclined to use eHealth when they have negative healthcare experiences. To maximize the potential for eHealth to meet the needs of all patients, especially those who are traditionally underserved by the healthcare system, additional work should be performed to ensure that eHealth resources are accessible and usable to all members of the population.
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