Surveys have shown that 60 million persons in the United States searched
for health information online in 1998. However, lack of sampling from a clinic
population limits the generalizability of these surveys to clinical practice.
To determine gastroenterology patients' access to and use of the Web
as a medical information resource, to identify for what information patients
search, and to determine how often physicians recommend that patients search
Design, Setting, and Participants
Cross-sectional survey of 1006 gastroenterology outpatients in Durham,
NC, and Rockford, Ill, conducted in August 1999.
Main Outcome Measures
Patient characteristics and education level, access to the Web, use
of the Web as a medical information resource, search methods, and plans for
future Web use.
A total of 924 patients (92%) completed the questionnaire. Median age
was 53 years, 41% were men, and the median education level was having completed
some college. Fifty percent (462/924) reported having access to the Web. Of
the 462 with access, 235 (51%) had searched the Web for medical information
within the previous 12 months. Therefore, 25.5% of all patients surveyed had
searched the Web for medical information within the previous year. Sixty percent
of patients intended to use the Web as a medical information resource in the
future. Only 35 (4%) of 825 had ever been referred to the Web by a physician.
In this clinic setting, more than one quarter of gastroenterology outpatients
reported having obtained medical information from the Web within the previous
year. More than two thirds of patients stated they would use the Web as a
medical information resource in the future.