Telemedicine requires either the use of digital tools or a minimum technological knowledge of the patients. Digital health literacy may influence the use of telemedicine in most patients, particularly those with frailty. We aimed to explore the association between frailty, the use of digital tools, and patients’ digital health literacy.
We prospectively enrolled patients referred to arrhythmia outpatient clinics of our cardiology department from March to September 2022. Patients were divided according to frailty status as defined by the Edmonton Frail Scale (EFS) into robust, pre-frail, and frail. The degree of digital health literacy was assessed through the Digital Health Literacy Instrument (DHLI), which explores seven digital skill categories measured by 21 self-report questions.
A total of 300 patients were enrolled (36.3% females, median age 75 (66-84)) and stratified according to frailty status as robust (EFS ≤ 5; 70.7%), pre-frail (EFS 6-7; 15.7%), and frail (EFS ≥ 8; 13.7%). Frail and pre-frail patients used digital tools less frequently and accessed the Internet less frequently compared to robust patients. In the logistic regression analysis, frail patients were significantly associated with the non-use of the Internet (adjusted odds ratio 2.58, 95% CI 1.92-5.61) compared to robust and pre-frail patients. Digital health literacy decreased as the level of frailty increased in all the digital domains examined.
Frail patients are characterized by lower use of digital tools compared to robust patients, even though these patients would benefit the most from telemedicine. Digital skills were strongly influenced by frailty.