Access to digital technologies such as the Internet, email, smartphones, and social media is becoming more common, including in low-income and underserved communities. Few studies have evaluated interest among families in using digital media to receive pediatric health care information.
In the study, “Access to Digital Technology Among Families Coming to Urban Pediatric Primary Care Clinics,” in the July 2013 Pediatrics (published online June 10), a survey was completed by 257 caregivers bringing children to urban pediatric primary health care centers in spring 2012.
Seventy-three percent of respondents were African-American, and 92 percent were on Medicaid. The survey evaluated access to home Internet, email, smartphones, and social media (Facebook and Twitter). Frequency of use and interest in receiving health care information electronically was also assessed. Eighty percent of low-income caregivers reported having Internet at home, 71 percent owned a smartphone, 91 percent reported using email, and 27 percent used Twitter. Ninety-seven percent reported using one or more of these technologies; and 49 percent reported access to all four. Daily use of digital media was common; over 50 percent used Facebook daily with a similar frequency reporting daily email use. More than 70% of respondents reported that they would use health care information supplied digitally if approved by their child’s medical provider.
Study authors conclude that the majority of caregivers in urban, low-income communities have access to and use digital media regularly. Pediatricians can use these new platforms to communicate relevant pediatric health care information to parents in what has been a traditionally hard-to-reach population.