GeneralOriginal Article

Health-Related Internet Use Among Patients of Osteopathic Physicians

Danielle L. Cooley, DO; Alison M. Mancuso, DO; Lucia Beck Weiss, MS; and Joshua S. Coren, DO, MBA
Notes and Affiliations
Notes and Affiliations

Received: August 31, 2010

Accepted: July 18, 2011

Published: August 1, 2011

J Osteopath Med; 111(8): 473-482

Context: Using the Internet has transformed communication and improved access to health-related information for patients and physicians.

Objectives: To determine why patients use the Internet for health-related information, where patients find answers to their questions, and whether patient use of the Internet impacts the patient-physician relationship. This study focused on patients of osteopathic physicians to confirm previously published data in a more specific population.

Methods: An anonymous 25-item survey was distributed to patients in a primary care setting. The survey elicited information regarding demographics, health-related Internet use, and discussion of Web-based health information during the clinical visit.

Results: Two hundred eighty-five patient surveys were collected. Data based on sex, age, education level, and ethnicity were evaluated. Two hundred fifty of 280 patients (89%) reported that they use the Internet to find health-related information, and 134 of 250 patients (54%) indicated that they changed their health-related behaviors based on information they found. Seventy-three of 133 patients (55%) who changed their behaviors reported these findings to their physicians. This finding differed by age and ethnicity. Patients aged 50 to 64 years (22 responses, 73%) were the most likely group to report behavioral changes to their physicians (P=.048). No patients who identified themselves as of Asian/Pacific Islander descent indicated that they reported behavioral changes to their physician (P=.043). Two hundred forty-two of 261 patients (93%) reported that their personal physician is the most reliable source for health information.

Conclusions: Most patients use the Internet to find health-related information, but many of them are not reporting potentially important health-related behavioral changes to their physicians. However, most patients still consider their physician as the most reliable source for health-related information. Physicians should ask patients about Internet use and counsel them about where to find reliable, accurate, high-quality health information.

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