AUSTIN, Tex. – Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have found that people with low health literacy were less likely to use digital health tools like patient portals, wearable technology and mobile apps.
“Given the fast-paced evolution of technology, there is a pressing need to further the understanding of how health literacy is related to app adoption and usage,” the researchers concluded.
Close to 5,000 participants were recruited for the study from an invitation-only research panel. Participants took a 20-minute survey, which included items to assess health literacy, participants’ use and perceptions of four different types of digital health tools, and demographic information.
Researchers found that participants with lower health literacy were not as likely to use fitness and nutrition apps, activity trackers and patient portals. High health literacy was found to be significantly associated with greater perceived use and usefulness across all digital health tools.
“Our results suggest that the actual design of apps, ranging from wearable technology to patient portals, has room for improvement so that lower health-literate audiences will perceive the apps as more useful and easy to use,” the researchers said in their findings.
The study also sought to determine patients’ perceptions of privacy surround digital health tools and their trust in government, media, technology companies and health care. Patients with greater health literacy often demonstrated decreased privacy perceptions for digital health tools. Health literacy was negatively associated with trust in government, media and technology companies.
“Interestingly, health literacy score was positively associated with trust in health care,” researchers found.