eHealth in Minnesota: Big industry, big pastime, big investment


Connect Minnesota recently published a report that looks at eHealth in Minnesota. Based on 2011 surveys of businesses and residents in Minnesota, they were able to cull together a nice report on who is accessing information online and who isn’t as well as how plugged in the healthcare industry appears to be.

Here’s a quick take from the report…

    • Approximately 1.9 million adults in Minnesota, or 55% who use the Internet, say that they go online for e-Health purposes.
    • Over one-half (56%) of Internet-connected Minnesotans who are age 65 or older use the Internet for e-Health applications. … In fact, more than one in four Minnesotans age 65 or
      older are e-health users (26%).
    • Internet-connected Minnesotans with higher household incomes tend to use e-Health applications more than those with lower annual household incomes.
    • Two out of three (66%) Internet-using Minnesotans who have disabilities go online for e-Health applications.
    • Rural Minnesotans who use the Internet are less likely to use e-Health tools than their Internet-connected peers in urban or suburban portions of the state.
    • More than four out of five Minnesota businesses in the healthcare sector (82%, representing approximately 12,000 Minnesota businesses) use broadband, while 61% have websites.
    • Approximately 2,000, or 12%, of businesses in Minnesota’s healthcare sector do not use the Internet. Of the healthcare establishments that do use the Internet, the top reason to go online is to purchase or place orders for products or services.
    • Internet-connected Minnesota businesses in the healthcare sector are more likely to advertise job openings or accept job applications online than other industry sectors in the state.

I thought this was interesting. I wasn’t surprised to see elderly as strong users of healthcare information. I just think there’s a natural increase in interest in healthcare as we age. (Or is that just me?) Previous Connect Minnesota reports (and others) have reported that certain demographics are underrepresented online: elderly, low income and rural residents. But does it follow that the lower overall use would indicate lower healthcare use for low-income and rural folks?

Reports from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that low income folks do delay healthcare – younger folks delay more than older folks…

    • About 28.9 million persons (9%) delayed seeking medical care in the last year due to cost, and another 21.0 million (7%) did not receive needed care due to the cost of care.
    • Adults aged 18–64 years were more likely than older adults and children to delay seeking or not receive medical care due to cost.
    • Persons with the least education were about three times as likely as persons with the most education to have not received needed medical care due to cost, and they were nearly twice as likely to have delayed seeking care for this reason.
    • Persons in the lowest income group were about five times as likely as persons in the highest income group to delay seeking medical care due to cost and about nine times as likely to not get needed medical care.
    • Persons under age 65 years who were uninsured were about three times as likely as persons who had Medicaid or other insurance to delay seeking or not receive needed medical care due to cost.

It seems like an opportunity to me. Access to healthcare information might be a way to get early treatment to folks who are not seeking treatment now. That may save in lost days at work, reduced healthcare costs, reduced emergency costs. (According to the Department of Health and Human Services, uninsured families pay only about 12 percent of their full hospital bills. Leaving as much as $49 billion in unpaid bills a year.) These are real savings not only for the patient but for healthcare facilities and for the community and taxpayers who pick up the cost of emergency care for uninsured (or underinsured) patients. It’s another example of where broadband (deployment and adoption) investment is indeed an investment, which will reap financial benefits for the community in the long term.