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Proceedings of the International Symposium on Human Factors and Ergonomics in Health Care





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Expansive and rapid growth of technology creates unprecedented patient access to health information, including timely communication with care providers via patient portals and the ability to access information regarding specific disease(s) (e.g., cancer). However, several forms of digital engagement with health providers require access and use of reliable internet access. A “digital divide” is used to describe demographic differences which contribute to a patient’s use or disuse of patient portals; prior research have noted disparities in lack of reliable internet access. Despite the prevalence of informal caregivers in patient care, little is known about internet access and use among informal caregivers of patients with chronic disease. This study leveraged the 2017 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) dataset to determine population level characteristics of caregiver factors which may contribute to their internet access and use. Findings illuminate informal caregivers primarily care for patients with illnesses relating to aging, including dementia. We also found that non-use of the internet (NUI) was higher among caregiver groups who informally provided care between 20-39 hours/week as opposed to those with 0-8 hours of provided care each week. Unlike caregivers of asthma, cancer and dementia; caregivers of substance use, diabetes, HIV and chronic respiratory disease patients reported higher NUI. Future studies should target the specific needs of informal caregivers such that tools promoting patient engagement and access to resources do not unintentionally neglect this user group.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Sage in [Proceedings of the International Symposium on Human Factors and Ergonomics in Health Care] on [September 15, 2019], available online:

Reuse restricted to noncommercial and no derivative uses.