BACKGROUND: Millions of consumers have accessed health information online. However, little is known about their health status.
OBJECTIVE: To explore use of Internet health information among those who were sicker (fair/poor general health status) compared with those reported being healthier.
METHODS: A national, random-digit telephone survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project identified 521 Internet users who go online for health care information. Our primary independent variable was general health status rated as excellent, good, fair, or poor. Patterns of Internet use, and types of information searched were assessed.
RESULTS: Among the 521 users, 64% were female, most (87%) were white, and median age was 42 years. Most individuals indicated that they learned something new online (81%) and indicated that they believe most information on the Internet (52%). Compared with those with excellent/good health, those with fair/poor health (N = 59) were relative newcomers to the Internet but tended to use the Internet more frequently, were more likely to use online chats, were less likely to search for someone other than themselves, and were more likely to talk about the new information with their physician (odds ratio 3.3 [95% confidence interval 1.8-6.3]), after adjustment for age, education and income.
CONCLUSIONS: Health care professionals should be aware that their sicker patients are more likely to ask them about information they found online. Physicians, public health professionals, and eHealth developers should work together to educate patients about searching for health information online and to provide tools for them to navigate to the highest quality information.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/jeroan_allison/25/