April 8, 2013

Veteran Internet Use and Engagement With Health Information Online

New analysis of our 2010 health survey results show differences among three populations: veterans of the U.S. military who obtain their health care within the Veterans Health Administration of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA); veterans who are outside the VA system; non-veterans.

The full article is behind the pay wall for Military Medicine, but the abstract is available and I thought I’d summarize some key points below:

  • Veterans in the VA system use the internet less frequently than do other veterans.
  • When they do access the internet for health, veterans in the VA system are more likely than other veterans to look for information related to Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, or dementia.
  • Since the study is based on a phone survey, it may not be representative of all veterans because of the number of current homeless veterans who do not have a landline or cell phone. However, there are enough intriguing patterns to suggest the need for further research.

The conclusion is worth quoting in full:

Veterans may be considered a vulnerable population in the context of the digital divide, yet results from this study indicate that there is a potential to engage veterans with health-related services via the internet. It is important to continue to explore the needs of veterans regarding health information to help improve patient-centered care and help veterans better manage their health.

Many thanks to the lead authors of this article, who deserve the credit for the analysis: Thomas K. Houston, Julie E. Volkman, Hua Feng, Kim M. Nazi, and Stephanie L. Shimada.

Please let us know if you have observations or questions about the VA or veterans’ use of the internet and online health resources. (Discussion hosted by e-patients.net.)