Dermatology patients often search the internet for health information
MedWire News: Dermatology patients regularly use the internet to access health information, but still see doctors as their main source of such information, study findings reveal.
The study also showed that nearly half of the 432 dermatology patients who participated found that discussing online medical information with their doctor not only had a positive effect on their skin disease, but also improved their relationship with their doctor.
"Therefore, doctors should be more aware of the health-related information available online and should guide patients to reliable websites," say Khalid AlGhamdi, from King Saud University in Saudi Arabia, and colleagues.
Of the 432 dermatology outpatients, aged an average of 30 years, who replied to a questionnaire on internet use, a significant 47% used the internet to access health-related information.
Individuals most likely to have carried out such searches were younger women, college graduates, and those with higher incomes.
While nearly half of the patients had looked on the internet for health-related information, most (93%) still considered their doctor as their primary source of such information.
Also, the majority of patients (60%) preferred and were more satisfied with a direct explanation of their condition from their doctor than the internet.
The researchers note that 31% of those who searched the internet for medical information visited their doctor's personal website rather than other websites; and most said they would trust online information only if it had been written by a doctor or if the website belonged to a health institution.
"These findings imply that most of our respondents still rely on doctors as the main source of information on their condition, even if they do search for online information," the researchers write in the International Journal of Dermatology.
However, given the positive impact accessing online medical information had on patients' skin disease and their relationship with their doctor, the researchers suggest that "patients should be asked their internet search practice as part of medical history-taking procedures in order to harness the advantages."
They highlight the importance this could have on strengthening the patient-doctor relationship and involving the patient in any decision-making process regarding his or her condition.
MedWire (www.medwire-news.md) is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011
By Lucy Piper