UMMS Affiliation

Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Clinical and Population Health Program

Publication Date


Document Type



Clinical Epidemiology | Epidemiology | Health Information Technology | Health Psychology | Health Services Administration | Health Services Research | Medicine and Health | Rehabilitation and Therapy


BACKGROUND: Disabilities affect more than 1 in 5 US adults, and those with disabilities face multiple barriers in accessing health care. A digital gap, defined as the disparity caused by differences in the ability to use advanced technologies, is assumed to be prevalent among individuals with disabilities.

OBJECTIVE: This study examined the associations between disability and use of information technology (IT) in obtaining health information and between trust factors and IT use. We hypothesized that compared to US adults without disabilities, those with disabilities are less likely to refer to the internet for health information, more likely to refer to a health care provider to obtain health information, and less likely to use IT to exchange medical information with a provider. Additionally, we hypothesized that trust factors, such as trust toward health information source and willingness to exchange health information, are associated with IT use.

METHODS: The primary database was the 2013 Health Information National Trends Survey 4 Cycle 3 (N=3185). Disability status, the primary study covariate, was based on 6 questions that encompassed a wide spectrum of conditions, including impairments in mobility, cognition, independent living, vision, hearing, and self-care. Study covariates included sociodemographic factors, respondents' trust toward the internet and provider as information sources, and willingness to exchange medical information via IT with providers. Study outcomes were the use of the internet as the primary health information source, use of health care providers as the primary health information source, and use of IT to exchange medical information with providers. We conducted multivariate logistic regressions to examine the association between disability and study outcomes controlling for study covariates. Multiple imputations with fully conditional specification were used to impute missing values.

RESULTS: We found presence of any disability was associated with decreased odds (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 0.65, 95% CI 0.43-0.98) of obtaining health information from the internet, in particular for those with vision disability (AOR 0.27, 95% CI 0.11-0.65) and those with mobility disability (AOR 0.51, 95% CI 0.30-0.88). Compared to those without disabilities, those with disabilities were significantly more likely to consult a health care provider for health information in both actual (OR 2.21, 95% CI 1.54-3.18) and hypothetical situations (OR 1.80, 95% CI 1.24-2.60). Trust toward health information from the internet (AOR 3.62, 95% CI 2.07-6.33), and willingness to exchange via IT medical information with a provider (AOR 1.88, 95% CI 1.57-2.24) were significant predictors for seeking and exchanging such information, respectively.

CONCLUSIONS: A potential digital gap may exist among US adults with disabilities in terms of their recent use of the internet for health information. Trust toward health information sources and willingness play an important role in people's engagement in use of the internet for health information. Future studies should focus on addressing trust factors associated with IT use and developing tools to improve access to care for those with disabilities.


Internet, disability, health care provider, health information, psychosocial factors, trust

Rights and Permissions

Copyright: © Eun Ji Kim, Yiyang Yuan, Jane Liebschutz, Howard Cabral, Lewis Kazis. Originally published in JMIR Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology (, 16.03.2018. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work, first published in JMIR Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology, is properly cited. The complete bibliographic information, a link to the original publication on, as well as this copyright and license information must be included.

DOI of Published Version



JMIR Rehabil Assist Technol. 2018 Mar 16;5(1):e3. doi: 10.2196/rehab.8783. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

JMIR rehabilitation and assistive technologies

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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