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Availability of computerized health information does not appear to affect use of medical care

The availability of computerized health information via the Internet apparently does not affect demand for medical care, according to a study supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS09997). Todd H. Wagner, Ph.D., of the Stanford University School of Medicine, and Holly B. Jimison, Ph.D., of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, tested the effect of using computerized health information on physician visits. They determined computer information use by exposure to the Healthwise Communities Project, a community-wide health information intervention; computer ownership; and Internet access.

The researchers mailed questionnaires to random households in three cities before and after the Healthwise Communities Project. Based on the 5,909 surveys collected, use of computerized health information was not associated with self-reported entry into care or number of medical visits. More research is needed to determine whether computerized health information may affect location of care, timing of getting care, or the intensity of treatment.

See "Computerized health information and the demand for medical care," by Drs. Wagner and Jimison, in Value in Health 6(1), pp. 29-39, 2003.

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