Internet-based Patient Self-care: The Next Generation of Health Care Delivery (4)

Access Gaps

Another obstacle to widely implementing online forms of health intervention is the assumption that lack of necessary technology by many senior, minority, and lower-income patients will exclude them from this intervention. While access to the Internet is less common in these groups, studies show that the "digital divide" is narrowing.
The senior population has been slower than other age groups in embracing the Internet but this is changing. A Pew report predicts that with many baby boomers approaching retirement age, seniors' use of the Internet will increase dramatically. The health care industry must be prepared to accommodate this growing segment of the population, many of whom will become homebound but will still need services, training, and reinforcement of medical self-management, as well as continued connection to clinicians and contact with other patients.
While eHealth technologies have the potential to reduce disparities in health care by promoting health and preventing disease, traditionally underserved groups who could benefit the most from eHealth initiatives, are the least likely to have access to such technologies. Although seniors and many minority groups are the fastest-growing segments of new Internet users, we need to better understand access barriers.

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