The general public's use of (and attitudes towards) interactive, personal digital health information and advisory services
ABSTRACT Examines statistically the public's use and attitudes towards interactive and personal health services via an online questionnaire survey and enhances these data with an expert assessment of a number of consumer health sites and their services. Over a period of three weeks more than 1,300 people responded to an online questionnaire produced by The British Life and Internet Project. Of the respondents, 81 per cent were British. The likely potential uptake figure for support group participation among Internet health users is about 20 per cent while around 11 to 13 per cent will go online to describe a medical condition. Those in poor heath were approximately ten to 13 times more likely to have participated in an online support group. Those aged over 65 were four times as likely to e-mail their doctor. More positive health outcomes were associated with those respondents that participated in online support groups and the least number of health outcomes were associated with those people that maintained e-mail contact with a doctor or surgery.
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ABSTRACT: The Internet has attracted considerable attention as a means to improve health and health care delivery, but it is not clear how prevalent Internet use for health care really is or what impact it has on health care utilization. Available estimates of use and impact vary widely. Without accurate estimates of use and effects, it is difficult to focus policy discussions or design appropriate policy activities. To measure the extent of Internet use for health care among a representative sample of the US population, to examine the prevalence of e-mail use for health care, and to examine the effects that Internet and e-mail use has on users' knowledge about health care matters and their use of the health care system. Survey conducted in December 2001 and January 2002 among a sample drawn from a research panel of more than 60 000 US households developed and maintained by Knowledge Networks. Responses were analyzed from 4764 individuals aged 21 years or older who were self-reported Internet users. Self-reported rates in the past year of Internet and e-mail use to obtain information related to health, contact health care professionals, and obtain prescriptions; perceived effects of Internet and e-mail use on health care use. Approximately 40% of respondents with Internet access reported using the Internet to look for advice or information about health or health care in 2001. Six percent reported using e-mail to contact a physician or other health care professional. About one third of those using the Internet for health reported that using the Internet affected a decision about health or their health care, but very few reported impacts on measurable health care utilization; 94% said that Internet use had no effect on the number of physician visits they had and 93% said it had no effect on the number of telephone contacts. Five percent or less reported use of the Internet to obtain prescriptions or purchase pharmaceutical products. Although many people use the Internet for health information, use is not as common as is sometimes reported. Effects on actual health care utilization are also less substantial than some have claimed. Discussions of the role of the Internet in health care and the development of policies that might influence this role should not presume that use of the Internet for health information is universal or that the Internet strongly influences health care utilization.JAMA The Journal of the American Medical Association 06/2003; 289(18):2400-6. · 29.98 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Increasingly, consumers engage in health information seeking via the Internet. Taking a communication perspective, this review argues why public health professionals should be concerned about the topic, considers potential benefits, synthesizes quality concerns, identifies criteria for evaluating online health information and critiques the literature. More than 70 000 websites disseminate health information; in excess of 50 million people seek health information online, with likely consequences for the health care system. The Internet offers widespread access to health information, and the advantages of interactivity, information tailoring and anonymity. However, access is inequitable and use is hindered further by navigational challenges due to numerous design features (e.g. disorganization, technical language and lack of permanence). Increasingly, critics question the quality of online health information; limited research indicates that much is inaccurate. Meager information-evaluation skills add to consumers' vulnerability, and reinforce the need for quality standards and widespread criteria for evaluating health information. Extant literature can be characterized as speculative, comprised of basic 'how to' presentations, with little empirical research. Future research needs to address the Internet as part of the larger health communication system and take advantage of incorporating extant communication concepts. Not only should research focus on the 'net-gap' and information quality, it also should address the inherently communicative and transactional quality of Internet use. Both interpersonal and mass communication concepts open avenues for investigation and understanding the influence of the Internet on health beliefs and behaviors, health care, medical outcomes, and the health care system.Health Education Research 01/2002; 16(6):671-92. · 1.66 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: A random sample survey of an online self-help group for people with hearing loss was conducted. Two factors predicted active participation in the group: a lack of real-world social support and being comparatively effective (having less disability, coping more effectively, and using real-world professional services). More active participation in the group was associated with more benefits from the group and stronger reports of community orientation. The authors also found evidence that integration of online and real-world support (if it existed) benefited participants. That is, if supportive family and friends in the real world shared the online group with participants, participants reported above average benefits, whereas if supportive family and friends were uninvolved in the online group, participants reported below average benefits. One of the best parts of Beyond Hearing is talking to the few friends I have on the list who I know off list. . . . That opinion was offered to us by a member of an Internet support group for people with hearing loss. If the statement seems incongru-ous, it is probably because today's dominant narrative about social support on the Internet focuses on its value when real-world support is unavailable (see Davison, Pennebaker, & Dick-erson, 2000; Galegher, Sproull, & Kiesler, 1998; McKenna & Bargh, 1998; Mickelson, 1997). In this article, we draw on theory from the field of social network analysis to explore the role of Internet support versus real-world support. We use empirical evidence from a ran-dom sample survey and follow-up survey of an online discussion group for people with hearing loss. We show that although compensatory on-line support is associated with benefits in this group, leveraged online support—a mixing of real world and online support—is associated with even more benefits.