Background: Education is critical to help patients with chronic kidney disease self-manage their illness by thoroughly understanding their treatment options, medications, diet and fluids, and symptoms.
Methods: This study assesses in-center hemodialysis patients' use of the Internet in general and for health information seeking, both independently and by proxy-asking a family member or friend. Patients (n = 1,804) were recruited from 37 randomly selected dialysis clinics in 18 End-Stage Renal Disease Networks. Respondents completed a survey in English or Spanish.
Results: Across the entire sample, 34.7% had used the Internet themselves compared with 38% of disabled Americans. Internet use was more likely among patients who were younger, non-Hispanic, from the Southeast or Texas, and more highly educated. Median education level of English-reading respondents was 12th grade. Their total Internet health information use was 43.5% (24.7% independently, 18.8% by proxy). Median education level of Spanish-reading respondents was 6th grade; their total Internet health information use was only 25.5% (8.5% independently, 17% by proxy). Reasons for not using the Internet related more to not having access to a computer or knowledge (70.4%) than to lack of interest (21.3%).
Conclusion: Alerting patients to Internet access at public libraries or providing a computer in dialysis clinic waiting rooms may help overcome this barrier. Proxy use may extend the reach of the Internet to patients who do not have access on their own.