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# Patient Use of Email for Health Care Communication Purposes Across 14 European Countries: An Analysis of Users According to Demographic and Health-Related Factors

, BA(Hons) , 1 , 2 , , PhD 3 , 4 ,   , PhD 4 , 5 , , PhD 1

(Reviewer), (Reviewer)

JMIR Publications Inc.

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### Abstract

##### Background

The use of the Internet for health purposes is growing steadily, yet the use of asynchronous communication tools for health care purposes remains undeveloped. The introduction of email as a method of communication in health care has the potential to impact on both patients and health care professionals.

##### Objective

This study aims to describe the characteristics of people who have sent or received an email to or from their doctor, nurse, or health care organization, by country and in relation to demographics, health care resource use, and health status factors.

##### Methods

We conducted a secondary analysis of data (N=14,000) collected from the online Citizens and Information Communication Technology for Health survey, a project undertaken in 2011 by the Institute for Prospective Technology Studies of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre. The survey was developed to understand and characterize European citizens’ use of information communication technologies for health. Descriptive and statistical analyses of association were used to interpret the data.

##### Results

Denmark reported the highest level of emails sent/received (507/1000, 50.70%). The lowest level reported was by participants in France (187/1000, 18.70%). Men used email communication for health care more than women, as did respondents in the 16-24 age group and those educated to tertiary level or still within the education system. As self-reported health state worsens, the proportion of people reporting having sent or received an email within the context of health care increases. Email use, poor health, multimorbidity, and number of visits to a physician are positively correlated.

##### Conclusions

The use of email communication within the context of European health care is extremely varied. The relationship between high email use, poor health, doctor visits, and multimorbidity is especially pertinent: provision of asynchronous communication for such groups is favored by policymakers. Low reported email use by country may not necessarily reflect low interest in using email for health care: local health policies and technical infrastructures may be significant factors in the delay in implementation of alternative forms of routine health communication.

### Most cited references40

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### Using the Internet for Surveys and Health Research

(2002)
This paper concerns the use of the Internet in the research process, from identifying research issues through qualitative research, through using the Web for surveys and clinical trials, to pre-publishing and publishing research results. Material published on the Internet may be a valuable resource for researchers desiring to understand people and the social and cultural contexts within which they live outside of experimental settings, with due emphasis on the interpretations, experiences, and views of real world' people. Reviews of information posted by consumers on the Internet may help to identify health beliefs, common topics, motives, information, and emotional needs of patients, and point to areas where research is needed. The Internet can further be used for survey research. Internet-based surveys may be conducted by means of interactive interviews or by questionnaires designed for self-completion. Electronic one-to-one interviews can be conducted via e-mail or using chat rooms. Questionnaires can be administered by e-mail (e.g. using mailing lists), by posting to newsgroups, and on the Web using fill-in forms. In "open" web-based surveys, selection bias occurs due to the non-representative nature of the Internet population, and (more importantly) through self-selection of participants, i.e. the non-representative nature of respondents, also called the volunteer effect'. A synopsis of important techniques and tips for implementing Web-based surveys is given. Ethical issues involved in any type of online research are discussed. Internet addresses for finding methods and protocols are provided. The Web is also being used to assist in the identification and conduction of clinical trials. For example, the web can be used by researchers doing a systematic review who are looking for unpublished trials. Finally, the web is used for two distinct types of electronic publication. Type 1 publication is unrefereed publication of protocols or work in progress (a `post-publication' peer review process may take place), whereas Type 2 publication is peer-reviewed and will ordinarily take place in online journals.
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### eHealth Trends in Europe 2005-2007: A Population-Based Survey

(2008)
Background In the last decade, the number of Internet users worldwide has dramatically increased. People are using the Internet for various health-related purposes. It is important to monitor such use as it may have an impact on the individual’s health and behavior, patient-practitioner roles, and on general health care provision. Objectives This study investigates trends and patterns of European health-related Internet use over a period of 18 months. The main study objective was to estimate the change in the proportion of the population using the Internet for health purposes, and the importance of the Internet as a source of health information compared to more traditional sources. Methods The survey data were collected through computer-assisted telephone interviews. A representative sample (N = 14,956) from seven European countries has been used: Denmark, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Norway, Poland, and Portugal. The European eHealth Consumer Trends Survey was first conducted in October-November 2005 and repeated in April-May 2007. In addition to providing background information, respondents were asked to rate the importance of various sources of health information. They were also queried as to the frequency of different online activities related to health and illness and the effects of such use on their disposition. Results The percentage of the population that has used the Internet for health purposes increased from an estimated 42.3% (95% CI [Confidence Interval] 41.3 - 43.3) in 2005 to an estimated 52.2% (95% CI 51.3 - 53.2) in 2007. Significant growth in the use of the Internet for health purposes was found in all the seven countries. Young women are the most active Internet health users. The importance of the Internet as a source of health information has increased. In 2007, the Internet was perceived as an important source of health information by an estimated 46.8% (95% CI 45.7 - 47.9) of the population, a significant increase of 6.5 % (95% CI 4.9 - 8.1) from 2005. The importance of all the traditional health information channels has either decreased or remained the same. An estimated 22.7% (95% CI 21.7 - 23.6) are using it for more interactive services than just reading health information. Conclusion The Internet is increasingly being used as a source of health information by the European population, and its perceived importance is rising. Use of the Internet for health purposes is growing in all age groups and for both men and women, with especially strong growth among young women. We see that experienced Internet health users are also using the Internet as an active communication channel, both for reaching health professionals and for communicating with peers.
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(2015)
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### Author and article information

###### Journal
J Med Internet Res
J. Med. Internet Res
JMIR
Journal of Medical Internet Research
JMIR Publications Inc. (Toronto, Canada )
1439-4456
1438-8871
March 2015
06 March 2015
: 17
: 3
###### Affiliations
1Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences University of Oxford OxfordUnited Kingdom
2UCL Interaction Centre University College London LondonUnited Kingdom
3Department of Information and Communication Science Universitat Oberta de Catalunya BarcelonaSpain
4Applied Social Science and Behavioural Economics Research Group Universitat Oberta de Catalunya BarcelonaSpain
5Dipartimento di Scienze Sociali e Politiche Universitá degli Studi di Milano MilanItaly
###### Author notes
Corresponding Author: Nikki Newhouse nicola.newhouse@ 123456phc.ox.ac.uk
###### Article
v17i3e58
10.2196/jmir.3700
4376107
25798912
©Nikki Newhouse, Francisco Lupiáñez-Villanueva, Cristiano Codagnone, Helen Atherton. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 06.03.2015.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on http://www.jmir.org/, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

###### Categories
Original Paper
Original Paper

Medicine