Objectives: To measure the rate of access to and use of the Internet and e-mail, to determine sociodemographic predictors of access, and to measure the change in Internet and e-mail access over a 1-year interval.
Design: Survey study. Comparison of data with those from a similar survey from 1998.
Setting: Emergency department of a large urban pediatric teaching hospital.
Participants: Primary caretakers of pediatric patients or the patients themselves if aged 16 years or older.
Main outcome measures: Use of and access to the Internet or e-mail.
Results: We surveyed 214 individuals: 72.8% use or have access to the Internet, e-mail, or both, an increase from 52.2% in the 1998 survey (P<.001), and 48.5% regularly use the Internet or e-mail, compared with 43.1% in 1998 (P = .32). Outside the home, access is primarily at work (52.2%), schools (8.9%), public libraries (11.5%), and friends' and relatives' houses (16.7%). Internet use and access are linearly correlated with income (r = 0.43; P<.001). White patients are more likely to have access (odds ratio, 2.6; 95% confidence interval, 1.3-5.4; P<.001) than black or Asian patients, whereas those of Hispanic ethnicity are less likely to have access (odds ratio, 0.20; 95% confidence interval, 0.09-0.43; P<.001). However, after adjustment for race and Hispanic ethnicity, only income was a significant predictor of family access to the Internet and e-mail.
Conclusions: During the past year, many patients have gained access to the Internet and e-mail, although rates of regular use have remained steady. This access is often from outside the home. Furthermore, access is directly related to income and is unevenly distributed across racial and ethnic groups.