The Shift to Online Health Care May Leave Foreign-Born Latinos Behind, Study Says

Health information is increasingly disseminated online, but Latinos who emigrated to the U.S. may have trouble accessing it, resulting in a health care gap, a new study reports.

Researchers found that 53.4 percent of Latinos in California who use the Internet looked for health information online. About 15.6 percent of Latinos in California who use the web said they weren’t confident filling out online forms.

Latinos who had limited English proficiency and who were born in another country were less likely to look for health information online and were less confident filling out web forms.

“Latinos, particularly foreign-born individuals, are at an increased risk of being left behind as the move to increase online content delivery and care expands,” wrote the researchers, from UC Merced, Michigan State University and CSU Stanislaus.

“As online health information dissemination and online health portals become more popular, the impact of these sites on Latino gaps in coverage and care should be considered.”

Researchers used data from nearly 10,000 Latinos who participated in the 2011-12 California Health Interview Survey.

The results were published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Medical Internet Research in April.

As more health information and insurance enrollment forms move online, agencies should consider offering Spanish-language portals, the authors conclude.

Health websites should focus on usability and simplicity, the study states.

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