Consumer use of the Internet for health information: a survey of primary care patients

Gina Dolan, Rachel Iredale, Robert Williams, Jamal Ameen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


An increasing number of patients use the internet to obtain information about health. Although some information is available about how health professionals use the internet, little is known about how patients utilize this information. Some patients may actively seek information to assume more responsibility for their health. However, others may feel obliged to do so because of failing confidence in health care provision. Health professionals have the potential to assist patients to make sense of health information from the internet; however, they may not necessarily welcome this role. This study aims to evaluate patients’ use of such information in a primary care setting. The sample consisted of adult patients (n = 851) from two general practice populations at different levels of the socio‐economic spectrum in South Wales (UK). Patients were surveyed by questionnaire about the health information they use, including the internet. The majority of patients preferred to use their general practitioner as the main source of health information. The internet was jointly the second preferred source for information about an illness (6%). Just over half (51%) of patients in this study had access to the internet, of which about half use it to access health information. Just under a quarter (24%, n = 55) of health internet users had discussed information accessed from the internet during a subsequent consultation with a health professional. Of these, three‐quarters felt more prepared and able to participate in decision‐making about treatments. This study provides a greater understanding of how patients are making use of health‐related information from the internet. These findings can be used to help prepare health care professionals for dealing appropriately with internet‐informed patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-153
JournalInternational Journal of Consumer Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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