Health Services Research & Development

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Kumar D, Hemmige V, Kallen MA, Giordano TP, Arya M. Mobile Phones May Not Bridge the Digital Divide: A Look at Mobile Phone Literacy in an Underserved Patient Population. Cureus. 2019 Feb 20; 11(2):e4104.
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Abstract: PURPOSE: Mobile health (mHealth) has promise to improve patient access to disease prevention and health promotion services; however, historically underserved populations may have poor access to mobile phones or may not be aware of or comfortable using phone features. Our objectives were to assess mobile phone ownership and mobile phone literacy among low-income, predominately racial and ethnic minority patients. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of a convenience sample of primary care patients in a publicly-funded clinic in Houston, TX. RESULTS: Of 285 participants, 240 owned a mobile phone and 129 owned a smartphone. The most common uses of phones were talk (89%) and text messaging (65%). Only 28% of smartphone owners had health apps. Younger age was significantly associated with smartphone ownership and use of smartphones for Internet browsing, social media, and apps. CONCLUSION: Our findings from a safety-net patient population represent trends in mobile phone ownership and literacy. Despite the single-site location of our study, the findings could be helpful to health promotion practitioners working with similar underserved populations. mHealth interventions should employ phone features that are accessible and familiar to the target audience to avoid denying intervention benefits to those with low mobile phone literacy and therefore widen health disparities.