Growth dynamics of patient-provider internet communication: Trend analysis using the health information national trends survey (2003 to 2013)

Will L. Tarver, Terri Menser, Bradford W. Hesse, Tyler J. Johnson, Ellen Beckjord, Eric W. Ford, Timothy R. Huerta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Background: Communication is key in chronic disease management, and the internet has altered the manner in which patients and providers can exchange information. Adoption of secure messaging differs among patients due to the digital divide that keeps some populations from having effective access to online resources. Objective: This study aimed to examine the current state of online patient-provider communication, exploring trends over time in the use of online patient-provider communication tools. Methods: A 3-part analytic process was used to study the following: (1) reanalysis, (2) close replication across years, and (3) trend analysis extension. During the reanalysis stage, the publicly available Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS) 1 and 2 data were used with the goal of identifying the precise analytic methodology used in a prior study, published in 2007. The original analysis was extended to add 3 additional data years (ie, 2008, 2011, and 2013) using the original analytical approach with the purpose of identifying trends over time. Multivariate logistic regression was used to analyze pooled data across all years, with year as an added predictor, in addition to a model for each individual data year. Results: The odds of internet users to communicate online with health care providers was significantly and increasingly higher year-over-year, starting in 2003 (2005: odds ratio [OR] 1.31, 95% CI 1.03-1.68; 2008: OR 2.14, 95% CI 1.76-2.59; 2011: OR 2.92, 95% CI 2.33-3.66; and 2013: OR 5.77; 95% CI 4.62-7.20). Statistically significant socio-economic factors found to be associated with internet users communicating online with providers included age, having health insurance, having a history of cancer, and living in an urban area of residence. Conclusions: The proportion of internet users communicating online with their health care providers has significantly increased since 2003. Although these trends are encouraging, access challenges still exist for some groups, potentially giving rise to a new set of health disparities related to communication.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere109
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Informatics


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