OBJECTIVE - To determine if patients from a community health clinic have access to computers and/or the Internet and if they believe a computer is useful in their medical care.
METHODS - A convenience sample of 100 subjects, aged 50 years and older, from a community health clinic in Nashville, Tennessee, completed a structured interview and a health literacy assessment.
RESULTS - Of the 100 participants, 40 did not have any computer access, 27 had computer but not Internet access, and 33 had Internet access. Participants with computer access (with or without Internet) had higher incomes, higher educational status, and higher literacy status than those without computer access. Of participants reporting current computer use (n = 54), 33% reported never using their computer to look up health and medical information. Of those who "never'' used their computer for this activity, 54% reported they did not have Internet connectivity, whereas 31% reported they did not know how to use the Internet. Although this group of individuals reported that they were comfortable using a computer (77%), they reported being uncomfortable with accessing the Internet (53%).
CONCLUSIONS - Not only does access to computers and the Internet need to be improved before widespread use by patients, but computer users will need to be instructed on how to navigate the Internet.