Older patients respond better to print, study finds

Despite all the buzz about the Internet's potential to improve patient health, a recent study found that people over the age of 50 responded better to print information.

The subjects were randomly divided into groups who would receive tailored information either online or in print that encouraged physical activity, according to the study published at the Journal of Medical Internet Research. The groups received similar advice on three occasions: within two weeks after the baseline, two months after the baseline, and within four months after the baseline, based on a second assessment at three months.

Both groups had a dropout rate that was not explained by user characteristics. However, the print group had higher participation (19 percent) compared with the online group (12 percent.) Low intention to be physically active was a strong predictor of dropping out for both groups.

Participants of the Web-based group were significantly younger, more likely to be men, had a higher body mass index and a lower intention to be physically active than those who got printed advice. 

The authors, however, aren't giving up on the Internet as a cost-effective means to influence high-risk populations. They urge more research on the subject.

Two surveys reported just this week found positives for online consumer health information. In one, 11 percent of respondents said information found on a health website had saved their life or prevented severe incapacitation. The second reported online health information created a more positive outlook toward cancer prevention and diagnosis among lower socio-economic groups.

American Heart Association officials earlier this month said social networks in particular can aid in the weight-management efforts among children. A review of 18 different studies, though, concluded that while online weight management programs can be useful, but aren't as effective as face-to-face consultations. 

Meanwhile, an article in the Journal of Medical Internet Research concluded that mobile devices can be an effective way to encourage physical activity. 

To learn more:
- read the abstract