New media is a form of educational material that can be created or demanded instantly with the use of mobile devices such as smart phones, tablets or computers. It is important to distinguish that “new media” is typically only available on smartphones rather than on basic cell phones, which do not allow for web browsing or downloading apps. The following study evaluated the use of new media in an emergency department setting with the hopes of getting insight on whether new media could be a new way to improve patient care beyond the emergency department visit (Post et al., 2015).

The study used a survey in English and Spanish that was used in 3 different emergency departments in the Yale-New Haven Health System. The study was conducted 24 hours a day for 7 days a week for a total of 6 weeks. All three hospitals are located in an urban setting, two being academic institutes and one a community hospital. A total of 5,994 patients were enrolled in the study. Patients that were included were those who were above the age of 17 and their visit to the ED did not prevent them from answering the survey, such as drug intoxication or psychosis. Questions for the survey were determined from previous “new media” related studies as well as original questions that were related to the emergency department. Example questions are listed below.

  • (1) new media technology ownership (eg, “Do you own a cell phone?”)
  • (2) new media use (eg, “What do you use your cell phone for? Check ALL that apply.”)

Participants were asked follow-up questions regarding their usage of new media based on particular answers to questions as seen below.

  • (1) seeking health information (eg, “Do you use your cell phone to look up health information?”)
  • (2) tracking or managing one’s health (eg, “Do you use a software application on your phone to help you track or manage your health?”)

The results of the study showed that 85% of ED patients had cellphones and of those, 99% used their phones for making calls and 72% for texting. The study also showed that patients who were female, nonwhite, and more educated were more likely to use text messaging. Patient who were female, younger, nonwhite and had higher incomes were more likely to have mobile phones with more capabilities such as a smartphone. This was the same population of patients who were more likely to search for health/medical information.

The study showed that on average, 60% of smartphone users in the ED use their smartphones for health information seeking. Those in all socioeconomic subgroups had similar rates for health information seeking. Education level did positively correlate with the percentage who used new media for seeking health information (54% for those with no HS diploma and 65% for those with college+ education). However, when compared to the general population (compared to a Pew-CHCF survey), ED patients are more likely to use desktops/laptops to search for medical information than mobile phones.

This study shows that the new media usage, especially with smartphones, is prevalent in ED patients — even in lower socioeconomic groups where chronic disease burden tends to be higher. Using new media could help with patient education, continuity of care, and reaching out to lower income or minority groups.

NCBI

Post LA, Vaca FE, Biroscak BJ, et al. The Prevalence and Characteristics of Emergency Medicine Patient Use of New Media. JMIR Mhealth Uhealth. 2015;3(3):e72.