Internet use for health purposes and eHealth literacy in Hong Kong

Grant Data
Project Title
Internet use for health purposes and eHealth literacy in Hong Kong
Principal Investigator
Professor Tiwari, Agnes Fung Yee   (Principal investigator)
Professor Ho Kendall   (Co-Investigator)
Dr So Mike Ka Pui   (Co-Investigator)
Ms Cheung Shuk Ting   (Co-Investigator)
Start Date
Completion Date
Conference Title
Presentation Title
Internet, eHealth, Survey, mobile phone
Block Grant Earmarked for Research (104)
HKU Project Code
Grant Type
Small Project Funding
Funding Year
There has been considerable increase in the number of Internet users worldwide in the past decade [1]. Specifically, Internet has been used increasingly for health purpose including: the delivery of health care information [2], improving healthcare consumers’ capacity to make treatment decisions [3] and promoting patients’ self-management of chronic illness [4]. The term "eHealth" is used to describe health services and information delivered or enhanced through the Internet [5]. Mobile phones are also rapidly becoming a source of information and access to services for health consumers and health professionals alike through text messaging, mobile apps, and social media, commonly referred to as mHealth [6]. Population-based surveys were conducted in developed countries such as the United States [7]and Europe [8] to measure health consumers’ use of, attitudes toward, and activities regarding eHealth. While the surveys revealed an increase in the use of Internet and mobile phones for accessing health-related information among the general public, other studies showed that the more conventional sources of health-related information (e.g. health professionals, family members, newspapers, and television) were still used and valued even though such sources were decreasing in importance [9, 10]. Also, substantial effects of the Internet on health-related attitudes and activities (e.g. active communication and actual utilization of health care) are yet to be demonstrated [2, 11]. Furthermore, there is the assumption that electronic health resources are only helpful if people are able to use them, hence the call for assessing consumers’ ability to read, use computers, search for information, understand health information, and put it into context; in other words, their eHealth literacy [12]. In Hong Kong, both the government statistics [13]and a recent survey [14] show high Internet usage and smartphone penetration, similar to its Western counterparts. However, little is known about the use of Internet and mobile phones for health-related information in the Hong Kong population and their attitudes toward eHealth. Also, no local studies have been conducted to identify those who may not be comfortable with eHealth or have the skill to use information technology for health purposes. Such fundamental information is essential for developing and promoting the use of eHealth. In the proposed study, we aim to (i) measure the prevalence of Internet and mobile phone use for health-related information compared with other sources; (ii) examine attitudes toward and activities related to eHealth and mHealth in Hong Kong; and (iii) assess the eHealth literacy in a representative population survey.