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Scale measures confidence with telehealth technology

Jun. 2, 2022, 8:53 AM


by Paul Govern

As recently reported in the journal JMIR Formative Research, a team at Vanderbilt University Medical Center has developed a brief three-item scale called the Digital Health Care Literacy Scale, measuring individuals’ confidence with the skills necessary to use digital health care services such as telehealth.

“With telehealth services expanding and patient web portals becoming more central to health care delivery, it’s critical to understand which patients are not equipped for engaging with and benefiting from these technologies,” said Lyndsay Nelson, PhD, research assistant professor of Medicine, who led the project with Shari Barkin, MD, MSHS, professor of Pediatrics and chief of the Division of General Pediatrics. “We looked around and found that none of the previously published digital literacy scales were structured to efficiently assess confidence with the basic skills to use digital health care.”

Responses to each of the three items are in terms of a five-point scale ranging from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

The items include:

  • I can use applications/programs (like Zoom) on my cell phone, computer, or another electronic device on my own (without asking for help from someone else).
  • I can set up a video chat using my cell phone, computer, or another electronic device on my own (without asking for help from someone else).
  • I can solve or figure out how to solve basic technical issues on my own (without asking for help from someone else).

The project was conducted as part of a larger study examining telehealth use among caregivers of young children.

The team began with a pool of 81 potential digital literacy items, eliminating 75 to arrive at a set of six for testing in 508 respondents who were randomized into development and confirmatory samples. For validation, the team examined responses against subjects’ responses to background questions concerning digital access and prior experience with digital health care, as well as against demographic factors.

Statistical analysis of responses from the development sample pointed to a reduced, three-item scale that would perform just as well (see above), and which the team proceeded to test and validate in the confirmatory sample.

The project was supported by the National Institutes of Health (MD010722).

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