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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2017  |  Volume : 19  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 15-17

Use of internet for accessing healthcare information among patients in an outpatient department of a Tertiary Care Center


1 Final Year Student, AFMC, Pune, India
2 SSO (Health), HQWNC, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication17-Aug-2017

Correspondence Address:
Sougat Ray
SSO (Health), HQWNC, Naval Dockyard, Mumbai, Maharashtra
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/jmms.jmms_1_17

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  Abstract 


Background: Health information is one of the most accessed topics online. Worldwide, about 4.5% of all Internet searches are for health-related informationand more than 70, 000 websites disseminate health information. However, critics question the quality and credibility of online health information as contents are mostly a result of limited research or are commercialised. There is a need to train people to locate relevant websites where they can efficiently retrieve evidence based information and evaluate the same. The study was conducted with the objectives of determining the prevalence of use of internet for accessing healthcare information amongst literate adult population in an urban area and to assess the association between the demography and the reasons of internet use. Methodology: We used an anonymous, cross sectional survey completed by a sample of out patients of 408 individuals who came to a tertiary care centre at Pune during the year 2015. The survey consisted of 17 questions related to behavioural, attitudinal and demographic items. Results: Out of the total of 408 individuals, 256 (63.2%) individuals used internet for health information though 332 (82.4%) of them were aware of authorised websites for health information and 69 (16.9%) thought information available in the internet can be harmful. Also, 63 out of 256 (24.6%) agreed to the fact that they ask questions to their doctors based on the information that they acquired from internet while surfing about that particular disease/ ailment. More individuals (p<0.05) who were working and who were educated, graduates and above, were using internet for health information. Conclusion: Our results suggest the great potential for using the internet to disseminate the information and awareness to the public about health and healthcare facilities. However, it is important to disseminate credible information from reliable and authorised websites assigned for health since online healthcare information can reach target masses within a very short span of time.

Keywords: Health information, internet use, patients


How to cite this article:
Renganathan L, Ray S, Nagpal D. Use of internet for accessing healthcare information among patients in an outpatient department of a Tertiary Care Center. J Mar Med Soc 2017;19:15-7

How to cite this URL:
Renganathan L, Ray S, Nagpal D. Use of internet for accessing healthcare information among patients in an outpatient department of a Tertiary Care Center. J Mar Med Soc [serial online] 2017 [cited 2017 Nov 21];19:15-7. Available from: http://www.marinemedicalsociety.in/text.asp?2017/19/1/15/213091




  Introduction Top


Internet offers abundant information at a click of a button, and hence, it is increasingly used in different domains to gain knowledge. Especially in this new era, the internet savvy population, both young and old, are comfortable in using technology. Health information is one of the most common researched topics, and the access rate is ever increasing. Worldwide, it is around 4.5% of all Internet searches.[1],[2] More than 70,000 websites disseminate health information, and almost 50 million people seek health information.[3] The Internet offers widespread access to health information, with the advantages of interactivity, information modifying, and anonymity.[4] Thus, it enables individuals to control their own care,[5] choose health providers, and feel empowered.[4],[6] It also helps in improving the interactions between patients with the health professionals. Internet use for health information might improve individual's belief that what they are finding might be having an impact on their health.

However, critics question the quality and credibility of such health information as the searched contents may be mostly a result of limited research and hence might be inaccurate [7] as most individuals are not aware of the right health care websites. Furthermore, the access is unbalanced, and use is stuck further by navigational challenges [8] such as technical language, accessibility, availability,[9] and lack of permanence. Again, the information provided is for a population and not for a particular individual. Hence, the vulnerability of the individual increases.[10]

One-third of the online consumers research on prescription drugs or medicines. Since internet is also used for promoting a particular product (usually a drug), the consumers get influenced by these advertisements and fall into the trap of commercialization.[11],[12] The study was carried out to determine the prevalence of use of internet for accessing healthcare information and analyze the reasons for their use, among literate adult population in an outpatient department (OPD) of a tertiary care.


  Methodology Top


We carried out an anonymous, cross-sectional study of outpatients who came to a tertiary health care center during the year 2015. By taking the prevalence of access to health care information to be 50% and with 5% confidence limit and 95% confidence limit, the sample size was worked out to be 385. We interviewed 408 patients who were individually explained about the nature of the project and consent was obtained from them. The survey consisted of a pilot-tested questionnaire of 17 questions related to behavioral, attitudinal, and demographic factors. The data were entered in an excel sheet and analyzed by SPSS version 20.1 (IBM SPSS 21.0 (USA)).


  Results Top


Out of 408 individuals, 332 (82.4%) of them were aware of authorized websites for health information, but 258 (63.2%) individuals were found to have used internet for health information and 69 (16.9%) thought information available in the internet can be harmful. In this survey, 241 (59.1%) were males and 167 (40.9%) were females [Table 1]. The average age was 34.81 ± 13.87 years, and 251 (61.5%) were married. All individuals were educated, 349 (85.5%) of them are graduates. Furthermore, 63 out of 258 (24.4%) agreed to the fact that they ask questions to their doctors based on the information that they acquired from internet while surfing about that particular disease/ailment. More individuals who were working (P< 0.05) and more graduates (P< 0.05) had accessed the internet for healthcare information [Table 2].
Table 1: Access to internet for types of information on healthcare (n=258)

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Table 2: Association of demographic factors with access to health information from internet

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  Discussion Top


We found that 258 (63.2%) out of the 408 we surveyed used the internet for accessing healthcare information similar to other studies [13],[14] which found 58% and 53.5% internet users seeking health information regularly. Both according to Baker et al.[7] and Atkinson et al.,[13] females were predominant users of internet for accessing healthcare information than males. In our study, there were more males though the difference in internet usage among males and females was not significant. Diaz et al.[14] and Atkinson et al.[13] found that those with lower education levels were less likely to search for health information, similar to our study (P< 0.05) [Table 2]. However, more working individuals accessed the internet than students in our study (P< 0.05) unlike the study by Baker et al.[7] and Gray et al.[15] Baker et al.[7] also observed that one-third of those who used the internet thought that using the internet affected their decision and Diaz et al.[14] found 41% discussed their illness with the doctor. In our study, 24.41% of the users asked the doctor questions based on internet knowledge; however, 48 (18.60%) of them wanted to know more about the disease. Berland et al.[16] observed that patients using the internet for health issues might find it difficult to obtain complete and accurate information which might negatively influence their decisions, and in our study, we found 69 (16.9%) individuals to have issues related to the credibility of information obtained online.

Limitations

The present study represents a sample of Internet users from an OPD of a tertiary care center. These patients were educated and from middle and higher socioeconomic strata. The questionnaire was self-reporting, and actual use of Internet could not be verified. The validity or reproducibility of the survey also could not be confirmed. This study focused on patients from an outpatient medicine department and hence cannot be generalizable to the universe.


  Conclusion Top


Our study observed that Internet was being widely used as a health information resource by patients across the board, thereby dramatically changing the doctor–patient relationship. Physicians should identify patients who use the Internet, and understand the reasons why they use it as a source of medical information. They should thus be prepared to offer suggestions based on these health resources and assist patients in increasing their involvement in the decision-making process. The study has thus brought out that an internet-friendly doctor can build up a genuine partnership with his/her patients, thus contributing to modern health care.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Morahan-Martin JM. How internet users find, evaluate, and use online health information: A cross-cultural review. Cyberpsychol Behav 2004;7:497-510.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Eysenbach G, Kohler C. What is the prevalence of health-related searches on the World Wide Web? Qualitative and quantitative analysis of search engine queries on the Internet. AMIA Annual Symposium Proceedings 2003;2003:225-9.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
Cline RJ, Haynes KM. Consumer health information seeking on the internet: The state of the art. Health Educ Res 2001;16:671-92.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Korp P. Health on the Internet: Implications for health promotion. Health Educ Res 2006;21:78-86.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Nijland N, van Gemert-Pijnen J, Boer H, Steehouder MF, Seydel ER. Evaluation of internet-based technology for supporting self-care: Problems encountered by patients and caregivers when using self-care applications. J Med Internet Res 2008;10:e13.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Lau AY, Coiera EW. Impact of web searching and social feedback on consumer decision making: A prospective online experiment. J Med Internet Res 2008;10:e2.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Baker L, Wagner TH, Singer S, Bundorf MK. Use of the internet and e-mail for health care information: Results from a national survey. JAMA 2003;289:2400-6.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Benigeri M, Pluye P. Shortcomings of health information on the internet. Health Promot Int 2003;18:381-6.  Back to cited text no. 8
    
9.
McCray AT, Loane RF, Browne AC, Bangalore AK. Terminology issues in user access to Web-based medical information. Proceedings of the AMIA Symposium 1999:107-11.  Back to cited text no. 9
    
10.
Bernhardt JM, Hubley J. Health education and the internet: The beginning of a revolution. Health Educ Res 2001;16:643-5.  Back to cited text no. 10
    
11.
Brann M, Anderson JG. E-medicine and health care consumers: Recognizing current problems and possible resolutions for a safer environment. Health Care Anal 2002;10:403-15.  Back to cited text no. 11
    
12.
Peterson G, Aslani P, Williams KA. How do consumers search for and appraise information on medicines on the internet? A qualitative study using focus groups. J Med Internet Res 2003;5:e33.  Back to cited text no. 12
    
13.
Atkinson NL, Saperstein SL, Pleis J. Using the internet for health-related activities: Findings from a national probability sample. J Med Internet Res 2009;11:e4.  Back to cited text no. 13
    
14.
Diaz JA, Griffith RA, Ng JJ, Reinert SE, Friedmann PD, Moulton AW. Patients' use of the Internet for medical information. J Gen Intern Med 2002;17:180-5.  Back to cited text no. 14
    
15.
Gray NJ, Klein JD, Noyce PR, Sesselberg TS, Cantrill JA. Health information-seeking behaviour in adolescence: The place of the internet. Soc Sci Med 2005;60:1467-78.  Back to cited text no. 15
    
16.
Berland GK, Elliott MN, Morales LS, Algazy JI, Kravitz RL, Broder MS, et al. Health information on the internet: Accessibility, quality, and readability in English and Spanish. JAMA 2001;285:2612-21.  Back to cited text no. 16
    



 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2]



 

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Introduction
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