More use of telemedicine in urban, not rural areas

Although telemedicine is often offered up as the way to serve patients in rural populations, it's actually more prevalent in urban populations, according to research by the Commerce Department.

Drawing on a 53,000-household dataset collected by the Census Bureau in July 2011, "Exploring the Digital Nation: America's Emerging Online Experience," a report released by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration found that internet users living in urban areas are twice as likely to participate in telemedicine as rural internet users with utilization rates of 8 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

Only 7 percent of internet users told the Census Bureau that they go online to access medical records, participate in a video conference with a doctor or use the internet for remote procedures such as heart rate monitoring.

The data also show income and education disparities but few racial disparities in telemedicine utilization. Eleven percent of internet users with household incomes of $100,000 or more engaged in telemedicine activities, but only 4 percent of those in the under $25,000 bracket reported such activities, the report said. The data showed that Asian-American internet users were significantly more likely to use telemedicine than other ethnics groups, but the differences between whites, blacks and Hispanics is minimal, with white utilization at 7 percent and black and Hispanic participation at 6 percent.

The report also found a correlation between internet use and employment: the data showed a 9 percentage point increase in the probability of employment relative to those who neither use the internet nor even just reside in a household where the Internet is used.

Download the complete report.