Abstract: Background The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic prompted a surge in telemedicine, with the presumption that patients had computer and internet access. We sought to determine, in a population-based sample, how many Americans were using computers and the internet before the pandemic, and whether disparities existed in this. Methods The National Health Interview Survey is conducted annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is representative of the entire United States civilian non-institutionalized population. In 2018, questions were fielded regarding computer and web utilization. We evaluated sociodemographic factors associated with this. Results Twenty-five thousand and forty-nine people, representing 245,842,992 in the population, responded to these questions. Of the responses, 19% stated they used a computer "never or almost never," 18% stated they did not use the internet, and 25% did not use email. Over the previous 12 months, 55% of responders stated they had looked up health information on the internet, 11% had filled a prescription online, 16% had scheduled a medical appointment on the internet, and 17% had communicated with a healthcare provider by email. Internet usage varied by region, age, race, education, family income, and insurance status, but not by gender. Conclusion As telemedicine becomes more prevalent, sociodemographic factors limiting computer and internet use may disadvantage certain segments of the population.
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