Family medicine patients' use of the Internet for health information: a MetroNet study

Journal Name: 
J Am Board Fam Med
We explored a diverse sample of family medicine patients' use of the internet for health information. Primary objectives were to determine the extent of access to the Internet, and among those with access, the types of health information sought; how they search for that information; and how they assess the accuracy of the information. We also surveyed the physicians' perceptions of their patients' use of the Internet for health information. Of 1289 patients participating, 65% reported access to the internet; age, sex, race, education, and income were each significantly associated with internet access. A total of 74% of those with access had used the Internet to find health information for themselves or family members. Disease-specific information was most frequently sought, followed by medication information, and then information about nutrition and exercise. Patients determine website accuracy by the endorsement of the site by a government agency or a professional organization, their own perception of reliability of the website source, and the understandability of the information. Almost 90% attempted to verify the information they obtained. A majority had discussed website information with their physicians. The physicians (n = 92) underestimate the proportion of their patients who used the Internet for health information. A total of 36% of physicians said at least one patient per week brought in Internet health information, and 63% said they had suggested a specific website to their patients. Physicians need critical appraisal skills to determine whether information found by a patient is relevant to that patient's condition and is based on the best available evidence. In addition, physicians directing patients to websites for health information must be confident that the site is maintained and updated by a reliable and credible source
ACCESS, Adult, Aged, Cross-Sectional Studies, education, Exercise, Family, Family Practice, Female, Health, Health Care Surveys, Health Knowledge,Attitudes,Practice, Humans, Income, information, Internet, Male, Medicine, Methods, MetroNet, Michigan, Middle Aged, Nutrition, patient, Patient Acceptance of Health Care, Patient Education as Topic, Patients, Perception, perceptions, Physicians, race, Record, Research, Research Support, support, Universities, utilization