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      eHealth: Current Evidence, Promises, Perils and Future Directions 

      The Third Digital Divide in the Health Domain: Is Internet Use for Health Purposes Associated with Health Benefits?

      Efrat Neter , Esther Brainin , Orna Baron-Epel
      Emerald Publishing Limited
      eHealth, self-rated health, use of healthcare services, Internet use, outcomes, digital divide

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          Purpose: The primary purpose of this study is to examine the association between Internet use, skills, and health-related Internet activities, on the one hand, and perceived health outcomes of health-related Internet use, use of healthcare services, and self-rated health (SRH), on the other hand, the latter conceptualized as gains constituting the “third digital divide.” Secondarily, we seek to examine whether the above associations are maintained after accounting for demographic characteristics.

          Methodology: A nationally representative random-digital-dial (RDD) telephone household survey of Israeli adult population (aged 21 and older, N = 819). The survey measured different dimensions of Internet use – frequency, experience, Web 1.0 general consumption and health-related activities, Web 2.0 production activities (general and health-related), and content evaluation. Potential health benefits included perceived outcomes of Internet use for health purposes, use of healthcare services and SRH.

          Findings: In a multiple hierarchical regression model, adjusting for demographic variables, Internet use was associated with increased use of healthcare services and better perceived outcomes of Internet use for health purposes, but not with SRH.

          Research Implications and Limitations: Health-related Internet use is associated with a sense of empowerment and enhanced use of healthcare services, but – after accounting for background variables – is not associated with SRH. Limitations include self-reports and a cross-sectional design, the latter precluding inference on causality.

          Practical Implications: Internet use, specifically Web 1.0 consumption activities, is associated with increased use of healthcare services and is positively associated with perceived health outcomes. No such relationships were found for Web 2.0 activities. Future technological developments in services should take the digital divide into account and design products that will benefit disadvantaged groups.

          Originality/Value: While rigorously assessing various dimensions of Internet use, the study distinguishes between various benefits of Internet use in the health domain, clarifying which benefits are associated with Internet use for health purposes .

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          06 August 2018
          Copyright © 2018 Emerald Publishing Limited
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