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Use of the Internet and Ratings of Information Sources for Medical Decisions: Results from the DECISIONS Survey

Publication Abstract

Couper, Mick P., Eleanor Singer, Carrie A. Levin, Floyd J. Fowler, Angela Fagerlin, and Brian J. Zikmund-Fisher. 2010. "Use of the Internet and Ratings of Information Sources for Medical Decisions: Results from the DECISIONS Survey." Medical Decision Making, 30(Suppl. 5): 106S-114S.

Background. The rise in Internet use for seeking health information raises questions about the role the Internet may play in how patients make medical decisions. Objective. To examine Internet use and perceived importance of different sources of information by patients making 9 specific medical decisions covering prescription medication initiation, cancer screening, and elective surgery. Setting. National sample of US adults identified by random-digit dialing. Design. Cross-sectional survey conducted between November 2006 and May 2007. Participants. The final sample comprised 2575 English-speaking US adults aged 40 y and older who had either undergone 1 of 9 medical procedures or tests or talked with a health care provider about doing so during the previous 2 y. Measurements. Participants indicated if they or other family members used the Internet to seek information related to each of the specific medical decisions and rated how important the health care provider, the Internet (if used), family and friends, and the media (newspapers, magazines, and television) were in providing information to help make the medical decision. Results. Use of the Internet for information related to specific decisions among adults 40 y and older was generally low (28%) but varied across decisions, from 17% for breast cancer screening to 48% for hip/knee replacement. Internet use was higher at younger ages, rising from 14% among those aged 70 y and older to 38% for those aged 40 to 49 y. Internet users consistently rated health care providers as the most influential source of information for medical decisions, followed by the Internet, family and friends, and media. Limitations. Telephone surveys are limited by coverage and nonresponse. The authors excluded health-related Internet use not associated with the 9 target decisions. Conclusions. A minority of patients reported using the Internet to make specific common medical decisions, but use varied widely by type of decision. Perhaps reflecting perceived risk and uncertainty, use was lowest for screening decisions and highest for surgical decisions.

DOI:10.1177/0272989X10377661 (Full Text)

Country of focus: United States.

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