Does the Internet Improve Health Behaviors and Health Outcomes? Evidence From the National Health Interview Survey

31 Pages Posted: 31 Mar 2016  

Jeffrey T. Macher

Georgetown University - Center for Business and Public Policy

John W. Mayo

Georgetown University - Department of Strategy/Economics/Ethics/Public Policy

Olga Ukhaneva

Georgetown University - Center for Business and Public Policy

Date Written: March 30, 2016

Abstract

Does access to information change health behaviors or improve health outcomes? This study is among the first to analyze whether Internet health-related information (i.e., eHealth) influences individuals' health behaviors (e.g., doctor visits; doctor type visits; HIV tests) and health outcomes (e.g., emergency room visits; hospitalizations; hospital stays). A unique data set of healthcare information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) over 2012-2014 is used to examine these questions. We first identify the characteristics that are associated with searching for health information online. We then examine the impact of eHealth on individuals' health behaviors and outcomes, utilizing several econometric methods that account for selection bias. The first-stage results indicate that individuals who are younger, more educated, face a health issue (e.g., pregnancy, chronic disease, physical limitation), or cannot afford healthcare are more likely to search for health information online. The second-stage results indicate that individuals' access to eHealth: (1) promotes precautionary care (e.g., more doctor visits; more doctor type visits) over acute care; and (2) achieves superior health outcomes (e.g., shorter hospital stays). The second-stage results, moreover, suggest complementarities between eHealth and individuals' education levels in improving health behaviors and outcomes. The public policy implications that arise from these empirical analyses are highlighted and discussed.

Keywords: eHealth, Broadband, Internet, Healthcare

JEL Classification: I1, I18, L96

Suggested Citation

Macher, Jeffrey T. and Mayo, John W. and Ukhaneva, Olga, Does the Internet Improve Health Behaviors and Health Outcomes? Evidence From the National Health Interview Survey (March 30, 2016). TPRC 44: The 44th Research Conference on Communication, Information and Internet Policy 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2756388

Jeffrey T. Macher

Georgetown University - Center for Business and Public Policy ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States
202-687-4793 (Phone)
202-687-1366 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://explore.georgetown.edu/people/jtm4/?PageTemplateID=319

John W. Mayo

Georgetown University - Department of Strategy/Economics/Ethics/Public Policy ( email )

3700 O Street, NW
Washington, DC 20057
United States
(202) 687-6972 (Phone)
(202) 687-7310 (Fax)

Olga Ukhaneva (Contact Author)

Georgetown University - Center for Business and Public Policy ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

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