Background: Information technology is revolutionizing health care delivery. Although data exist for other patient populations, awareness and use of information technology in cardiovascular patients have not been well described to date.
Objectives: To assess the awareness and use of information technology in cardiovascular patients over time.
Methods: A survey of consecutive cardiovascular inpatients and outpatients attending a tertiary care, Canadian academic centre was conducted in 2001. Awareness and use of the Internet, use of the Internet for health information, attitudes toward information technology and barriers to use were studied at baseline (n=300) and at one-year follow-up (n=199). The socioeconomic correlation was also examined.
Results: Most respondents were aware of the Internet and e-mail. Internet use for health information was prevalent and increased over time (62 of 105 patients [59%] at baseline versus 76 of 105 patients [72%] at one-year follow-up). E-mail use was also prevalent (102 of 189 patients [54%]) but did not increase over time. Cardiovascular patients who used the Internet for health information and e-mail were employed, and were significantly younger and better educated than patients who did not use them; income status was not a significant indicator of Internet or e-mail use. Most patients (95 of 131 patients [72%]) were interested in communicating with their specialists via e-mail.
Conclusions: Information technology is well accepted by cardiovascular patients in Canada. Internet use for health information was prevalent and increased over time. The present findings suggest that the 'digital divide' is evolving, with a narrowing socioeconomic divide, possibly due to the increasing public access to the Internet. This has important implications for patient education and the specialist-patient relationship.