Study: Patients' Internet use a predictor for participation in their own care

Patients who use the Internet more frequently are more likely to embrace patient-centered healthcare efforts and participate in their own care, according to a study published this week in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

For the study, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Florida and the University of Maryland examined Internet use patterns of 438 people. They asked the group two questions:

  • Is there a significant relationship between Internet use frequency and the overall preferences for obtaining health information and decision-making autonomy?
  • Does the relationship between Internet use frequency and information and decision-making preferences differ with respect to seven different aspects of health conditions--diagnosis, treatment, laboratory testing, self-care, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), psychosocial aspect and healthcare providers?

According to the researchers, the findings will be important for care efforts moving forward. "When medical professionals attempt to gauge how much information to provide patients or try to decide how much they should involve patients in medical decision-making, they may be better off if they base their decisions on patients' Internet use frequency rather than age, per se," they said.

Still, the individuals were divided into two groups--226 college undergraduates with a mean age of 20, and 212 older adults with a mean age of 72--with the younger group having "significantly more frequent Internet us" than the older group.

Research published last week in JMIR determined that online health communities were powerful tools for addressing chronic care issues as the number of patients afflicted with such diseases grows. What's more, research published last fall in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that patients with online access to their medical records and email communication with clinicians had more interaction with their clinicians than those without such access.

To learn more:
- read the JMIR study