According to a May 2013 study by the Pew Research Center, 15% of American adults do not use the Internet or email. Are you surprised by this number? Higher or lower than you thought?
Obviously since you’re reading a blog, you’re not in this group. But because it’s become such an important avenue for patient engagement, it’s important for you to know why that 15% of the population isn’t involved in online activity.
From the report:
- 34% of non-Internet users think the Internet is just not relevant to them, saying they are not interested, do not want to use it, or have no need for it.
- 32% of non-Internet users cite reasons tied to their sense that the Internet is not very easy to use. These non-users say it is difficult or frustrating to go online, they are physically unable, or they are worried about other issues such as spam, spyware, and hackers. This figure is considerably higher than in earlier surveys.
- 19% of non-Internet users cite the expense of owning a computer or paying for an Internet connection.
- 7% of non-users cited a physical lack of availability or access to the Internet.
As healthcare providers, it can be difficult to positively impact some of these online trust and access challenges. But for those non-Internet users who think it’s an irrelevant tool, you might consider educating them on the health resources available to them online. What videos, articles and other content could you direct them to that will help them manage their health?
For the non-users who cite a lack of access as their obstacle to Internet usage, consider offering a computer in the waiting area that offers access to educational sites. It’s an opportunity to learn more about a health topic right after a consultation with the doctor. If they read about a subject before their exam, it’s a great opportunity to ask the doctor any questions that come up.
Another thought from this study’s findings – it’s important to make sure you’re mixing media when communicating with patients. While we like to think that “everyone” is online these days, here’s further proof that it’s just not true. Keeping other outreach channels (such as phone calls) as a component of your patient communication mix will ensure you’re connecting with everyone per their preferred methods.
Zickhur, Kathryn. Who’s Not Online and Why. Pew Internet & American Life Project, September 25, 2013, http://pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Non-internet-users.aspx, accessed on October 4, 2013.