Online health information seeking behavior by patients prior to their outpatient appointments in endocrinology


Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Background: The internet is becoming an increasingly important medium for health-related information and is considered a means for aiding patient empowerment. Online health information (OHI) seeking behavior has never been studied in the field of endocrinology. Objective: We set out to examine the frequency, how and why the internet is utilized for health-related information and the impact of such activity. Future information needs were also investigated. Methods: A cross-sectional mixed-methods study was performed with more quantitative data. Qualitative data underwent thematic analysis. Patients attending a general endocrinology clinic were recruited from two clinical sites. A questionnaire survey was designed to answer our specific research questions. Results: 312 patients were included of which 251 (80.4%) were females; the response rate was 78.4%. OHI seeking was reported by 175 patients (56.1% of the whole study population and 78.1% among those that sought any health-related information); it was commoner among new patients (P=0.038). OHI seekers perceived OHI to be of high quality (135, 77.1%) and demonstrated a good understanding of what constitutes trustworthy information. Notwithstanding, 71 (40.6%) relied on the top search engine options as their main criterion for choosing a website and 104 (59.4%) were not aware of website certification tools like HONcode. OHI seekers sought general information (90, 51.4%); this was confirmed by thematic analysis which also revealed that ease of access and the wealth of information offered by this medium are important reasons why they go online. Among OHI seekers, 63 (36.6%) reported that their behavior changed after seeking OHI e.g. by improved self-care or compliance. Only 45 (25.7%) of OHI seekers discussed the information they gathered with their endocrinologist. If an interactive e-learning module was available, 194 (62.2%) of the 312 patients expressed a will to use it, especially existing OHI seekers (P<0.0001) and those reporting a need for more health-related information (P=0.024). Conclusions: OHI seeking is practiced by the majority of endocrine patients before their appointments. Patients have a good awareness of what makes a website trustworthy, but more education and guidance is needed. The reason they seek OHI is because they want to gather more general health information, but are also attracted by the inherent characteristics of the internet. Patients should be encouraged by their doctors to discuss their online gathered information. Many endocrine patients are keen to utilize e-learning modules, even those patients that are not current OHI seekers.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 19 May 2018
Event20th European Congress of Endocrinology - Barcelona, Spain
Duration: 19 May 201822 May 2018


Conference20th European Congress of Endocrinology


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