Study Finds Web Is Fundamentally Changing Patient-Doctor Relationship

Analysis of the public's use of health care information derived from the Internet

In November 1997, the Center for Research on the Information Society at Rutgers University conducted a survey of consumers and physicians on the use and quality of health care information on the Internet.

Key Findings

The principal investigator reported the following findings on the consumer survey to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF):

  • Some 41 percent of consumers used the Internet to access health care information; these people tended to be more skillful at using the Internet, and more likely to be female, white and older.
  • Some 73 percent of those who accessed Internet health care information shared their findings with others; 37 percent shared findings with a health care professional.
  • Only one third of those who accessed Internet health care information rated their most recent visit to a health care site as "highly valuable."

The principal investigator reported the following findings on the provider survey to RWJF:

  • Three out of five physicians surveyed used the Internet for professional purposes; users tended to be younger.
  • Physicians had significant concerns about the Internet's trustworthiness as a source of information.
  • Physicians reported that a high percentage of their patients presented queries based on their own Internet investigations on the Internet; physicians were willing to guide patients on using the information.
  • Physicians expressed strong interest in using the Internet for professional training and development.

Funding

RWJF provided $46,954 in funding from June 1998 to May 1999 to support the project.

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