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Table of Contents
Vol. 58, No. 2, 2012
Issue release date: February 2012
Gerontology 2012;58:164–170

Health-Related Internet Use in Older Primary Care Patients

Crabb R.M. · Rafie S. · Weingardt K.R.
aGeriatric Research Education and Clinical Center, Veterans Administration Palo Alto Health Care System and bPacific Graduate School of Psychology, Palo Alto University, Palo Alto, Calif., and cCenter for Health Care Evaluation, Veterans Administration Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford University School of Medicine, Menlo Park, Calif., USA

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Background: Adults aged 65 years and older stand to benefit from the accumulating wealth of Internet-based health resources, including online interventions to assist in the self-management of chronic health conditions. However, concerns have been expressed that lesser Internet use and familiarity among older adults may limit the utility of web-based health interventions in older age groups. As these interventions become more prevalent, it is important to understand older adults’ receptivity to using the Internet as a tool in managing healthcare. Objective: The purpose of the present study was to gauge the extent to which older primary care patients are receptive to using web-based health resources, and to explore how health-related Internet use may be related to patient characteristics such as age, income, and health and mental health status. Methods: We surveyed 50 adults aged 65 years and older in a Veterans Administration primary care clinic regarding: (1) Internet use for any purpose, (2) Internet use to obtain health or mental-related information, and (3) interest in using Internet-based interventions to address various health-related needs. A substantial proportion of respondents were in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, and many had multiple medical conditions. Results: Nearly three-quarters of older primary care patients in our sample were regular Internet users and over half had experience in using the Internet to search for health information. The majority of Internet users endorsed an interest in using web-based resources to manage various aspects of their health and mental healthcare. Conclusions: Our results support the conclusion that older primary care patients, including those among the oldest-old and those with multiple medical conditions, are amenable to using the Internet as a means of enhancing healthcare.

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