A Better Way to Think about Patient Access to the Internet: The access thermometer

Pew Latinos Online Summary Chart

Latinos Online: Summary chart, Pew Internet & American Life Project

We held a successful Advisory Group Meeting of the PCHIT initiative yesterday (and will post about that shortly), and one of the many pearls we received was from Susannah Fox, regarding the characterization of Internet access among populations. Through her research, she characterizes Internet access as a “dimmer” rather than an “on/off” switch.

She presented a visual example to us in a “thermometer” diagram that she created as part of her report on Latinos Online, published in March, 2007. She is planning to produce similar data on Internet access as characterized by device (e.g. cell phone) as well. She’s given us permission to reproduce the visual here.

Ending the use of the term “Digital Divide”

The approach of the Pew Internet and American Life Project seems useful moving forward as we think about bringing patients and their families of all backgrounds into the care experience. With that in mind, I am going to discontinue the use of the term “Digital Divide.” I don’t think it accurately describes Internet access across populations in the United States.

Your comments on this are welcome, of course!

Ted Eytan, MD