An Empirical Note on Health Vulnerability and Health Information Digital Divide: A Study of Indian Patients

An Empirical Note on Health Vulnerability and Health Information Digital Divide: A Study of Indian Patients

Jaya Rani (Sikkim Manipal University, India), Ajeya Jha (Sikkim Manipal University, India), Jitendra Kumar (Sikkim Manipal University, India), Samrat Kumar Mukherjee (Sikkim Manipal University, India) and Saibal Kumar Saha (Sikkim Manipal University, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0357-7.ch002

Abstract

Availability of healthcare information on the Internet has made it possible for patients or their relatives to search for such information. Considering the delicate nature of such information as well as its great need felt by the society, it is important to know who are these people who actively search for online healthcare information and also those who are unable to do so. In all, 754 respondents participated in the survey. The variables selected from literature survey and exploratory study are Health Information Digital Divide, Income, Having E-mail id, access to Internet, geographical location, Education, family-type, age, and gender. As the data is categorical, the significance of difference has been calculated using Chi-square test. Later discriminant analysis was conducted to predict patients who make online health information searches and the ones who do not. Using discriminant analysis, 94.5 percent of patients who make online health information searches could be correctly predicted. Prediction is 99.7% for the patients who do not indulge in online health information search.
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Literature Review

Healthcare, along with agriculture, remains the core concerns for human societies as these are most elemental to life itself. Consequently, hence how the digital divide affects health care is an important question. Further Information is considered a vital resource in health condition improvement because it is “the first step to every healthy choice” (Gann, 1986) and it is “on a continuum between health education and health promotion” (Rolinson, 1998).

Healthcare has been affected because of the digital revolution we have experienced in last 3 decades. Before the advent of the Internet, healthcare providers were the sole and legally authorized individuals with access to gain, interpret, analyze and convey health information. This naturally resulted in them having exalted status in their relations with patients or health consumers (Giddens, 1991; Goldsmith, 2000; Hardey, 1999). Internet has at once opened the floodgates of information at the disposal of patients and common men. It, therefore needs to emphasis that, healthcare consumers seeking online information do not portray merely a change in transition in the way they seek information, or just an opportunity to avail what they could not earlier, but a dynamic shift in their empowerment vis-avis their own health. (Cotten, 2001). They have far greater ability to actively understand and influence their health status (D’Alessandro & Dosa, 2001), assume more responsibility for their own health, and participate in health care decisions (Anderson et al., 2003). This ability, though, has brought forth certain misgivings (Henwood et al., 2003) yet is being hailed as a right to information and physicians are being implored to treat patients as individuals and not as treatment opportunities’ (Gann & Needham, 1992). Even Information professionals, advocate empowerment of people through accessible health information (Calvano, 1996). Health information is promoted as essential in healthcare as it is believed to provide both direction and rationale for guiding strategic health behaviors, treatments, and decisions (Kreps, 2001).

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