Background: The insurance mandate of the Affordable Care Act has increased the number of people with health coverage in the United States. There is speculation that this increase in the number of insured could make accessing health care services more difficult. Those who are unable to access care in a timely manner may use the Internet to search for information needed to answer their health questions. Objective: The aim was to determine whether difficulty accessing health care services for reasons unrelated to insurance coverage is associated with increased use of the Internet to obtain health information. Methods: Survey data from 32,139 adults in the 2011 National Health Interview Study (NHIS) were used in this study. The exposure for this analysis was reporting difficulty accessing health care services or delaying getting care for a reason unrelated to insurance status. To define this exposure, we examined 8 questions that asked whether different access problems occurred during the previous 12 months. The outcome for this analysis, health information technology (HIT) use, was captured by examining 2 questions that asked survey respondents if they used an online health chat room or searched the Internet to obtain health information in the previous 12 months. Several multinomial logistic regressions estimating the odds of using HIT for each reported access difficulty were conducted to accomplish the study objective. Results: Of a survey population of 32,139 adults, more than 15.90% (n=5109) reported experiencing at least one access to care barrier, whereas 3.63% (1168/32,139) reported using online health chat rooms and 43.55% (13,997/32,139) reported searching the Internet for health information. Adults who reported difficulty accessing health care services for reasons unrelated to their health insurance coverage had greater odds of using the Internet to obtain health information. Those who reported delaying getting care because they could not get an appointment soon enough (OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.9-2.5), were told the doctor would not accept them as a new patient or accept their insurance (OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.7-2.5 and OR 2.1, 95% CI 1.7-2.5, respectively), or because the doctor's office was not open when they could go (OR 2.2, 95% CI 1.9-2.7) had more than twice the odds of using the Internet to obtain health information compared to those who did not report such access difficulties. Conclusions: People experiencing trouble accessing health care services for reasons unrelated to their insurance status are more likely to report using the Internet to obtain health information. Improving the accuracy and reliability of health information resources that are publicly available online could help those who are searching for information due to trouble accessing health care services.
- Health information technology
- Health services accessibility
- Information-seeking behavior
- Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Informatics