Article

Informed citizen and empowered citizen in health: results from an European survey

Institute of Electronics Engineering and Telematics of Aveiro, Department of Economics, Management and Industrial Engineering, University of Aveiro, Portugal.
BMC Family Practice (Impact Factor: 1.74). 04/2011; 12(20):20. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2296-12-20
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The knowledge about the relationship between health-related activities on the Internet (i.e. informed citizens) and individuals' control over their own experiences of health or illness (i.e. empowered citizens) is valuable but scarce. In this paper, we investigate the correlation between four ways of using the Internet for information on health or illness and citizens attitudes and behaviours toward health professionals and health systems and establish the profile of empowered eHealth citizens in Europe.
Data was collected during April and May 2007 (N = 7022), through computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI). Respondents from Denmark, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Norway, Poland and Portugal participated in the survey. The profiles were generated using logistic regressions and are based on: a) socio-demographic and health information, b) the level of use of health-related online services, c) the level of use of the Internet to get health information to decide whether to consult a health professional, prepare for a medical appointment and assess its outcome, and d) the impact of online health information on citizens' attitudes and behavior towards health professionals and health systems.
Citizens using the Internet to decide whether to consult a health professional or to get a second opinion are likely to be frequent visitors of health sites, active participants of online health forums and recurrent buyers of medicines and other health related products online, while only infrequent epatients, visiting doctors they have never met face-to-face. Participation in online health communities seems to be related with more inquisitive and autonomous patients.
The profiles of empowered eHealth citizens in Europe are situational and country dependent. The number of Europeans using the Internet to get health information to help them deal with a consultation is raising and having access to online health information seems to be associated with growing number of inquisitive and self-reliant patients. Doctors are increasingly likely to experience consultations with knowledgeable and empowered patients, who will challenge them in various ways.

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    • "In this context, eHealth is a common term that refers to " health services and information delivered or enhanced through the Internet and related technologies " [2]. Many eHealth tools exist and eHealth resources are widely used: Santana et al. identified that the Internet influences the way people handle a consultation as well as their behavior towards health professionals [3]. In 2009, 86% of U.S. physicians used the Internet to gather health, medical or drug information [4]. "
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    ABSTRACT: In general, eHealth services offer numerous advantages, yet they cannot tap their full potential if they do not fit to the intended users' needs. Therefore, this workshop aimed at identifying barriers and facilitators of eHealth usage of consumers. It followed the idea of a Future Workshop and included three key note talks from experts of different scientific disciplines.
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    • "Most people are, at some point, in need of information about health and illness. Health information may help patients and the public improve health-related decisions, and hopefully, improve health outcomes [1] [2] [3]. Before the Internet, people relied on other sources for health information, including newspapers and magazines, books, and information given by their doctors, family, and friends. "
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    ABSTRACT: The aim of this study was to summarize and analyse findings from four prior studies on the use of the Internet as a source of health information in five European countries (Norway, Denmark, Germany, Greece, and Portugal). A cross-study comparison of data was performed. All the studies included fit with a trend of a sharp and continuous growth in the use of the Internet for health information access in the major part of the last decade. Importantly, the Internet has become an important mass media source of health information in northern Europe. While the use of the Internet for health information is somewhat less common in the south European countries, its use is also clearly increasing there. We discuss the advantages of cross-study comparisons of data and methodological challenges. As the use of the Internet for health information is likely to peak in some countries in the near future, new population surveys on health information access should focus more on the details of information that is accessed and which sites that are most used and trusted.
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    • "Finally, although the participating hospitals reflect the proportion of (non) university hospitals in the Netherlands, they are all located in the urban agglomeration in the Western part of the Netherlands, which might be of influence on the educational level of the patient population. Because research has shown that both living in the city as well as higher educational level are associated with more frequent use of the internet for health or illness matters, it should be determined whether the educational level and internet use of the participating patients reflects that of the general Dutch population, before the results of this study can be interpreted as representative of all gynaecological patients in the Netherlands [59]. "
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