Telemedicine and eHealth Literacy in the Era of COVID-19: A Cross-Sectional Study in a Peripheral Clinic in Israel

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Sep 10;18(18):9556. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18189556.


The COVID-19 pandemic mandating isolation, quarantine, and social distancing has accelerated and expanded the use of telemedicine. This study examines the extent of the use of telemedicine and the relationship between eHealth literacy and satisfaction with using telemedicine during the pandemic. A total of 156 participants from a clinic in a peripheral community in southern Israel completed an online questionnaire. We found that 85% knew how to use the internet for health information, but only one third felt safe using it to make health decisions. Furthermore, 93% used the internet for technical needs, such as renewing prescriptions or making a doctor's appointment. Even lower use for telemedicine was found (38%) for consultation or treatment sessions. A positive association was found between eHealth literacy and satisfaction variables with using telemedicine (rp = 0.39, p < 0.001). Although respondents understood the benefits of telemedicine, they were not satisfied nor interested in online sessions after the epidemic's end, preferring a meeting involving personal interaction. Young people and academics benefit more from telemedicine, thereby creating usage gaps and potentially increasing existing inequality. We recommend developing intervention programs, especially among vulnerable populations, to strengthen eHealth literacy and remove barriers causing skepticism about the use of telemedicine during and after the pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; access; eHealth literacy; internet; periphery; telemedicine.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • COVID-19*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Health Literacy*
  • Humans
  • Internet
  • Israel
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telemedicine*