MEDICAL-INFORMATION CONSUMERS: COMPARING THE CHARACTERISTICS OF PATIENTS WITH COPD WHO RECENTLY VISITED THEIR PHYSICIANS AND PATIENTS WHO VISITED A MEDICAL-INFORMATION WEBSITE pp. 169-196
Authors: Linda Casebeer, Outcomes Inc., Birmingham, Alabama, Joan Arata, Medscape LLC, New York, Rachel Shillman, and Andrew Sanchez Outcomes Inc., Birmingham, Alabama)
Abstract: Access to the explosion of information available on the internet has allowed patients living with chronic illnesses to become more direct consumers of medical information than was possible in pre-internet times. In fact, searching for medical information is one of the top reasons for online information seeking. Self-efficacy has been associated with better healthcare outcomes in patients with chronic illnesses. Being informed about a chronic illness and its treatment options is an important aspect of self-efficacy. In a recent study, investigators surveyed more than 1500 patients living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including: 1) patients who had recently visited their physicians; these physicians had been either participants or non-participants in online continuing medical education (CME) activities focused on COPD, and 2) patients who sought information from a large consumer website. Using responses from these healthcare consumers, the study examined the associations between feeling informed about COPD and the control of COPD. Patients who visited the medical-information website had surprisingly different characteristics from patients who had recently visited their physicians. As a group, patients visiting the consumer website were younger and had more severe COPD; they also felt less well-informed about their COPD and its treatment and perceived their COPD as less well controlled. Although seeking medical-information online is generally considered a characteristic of individuals with higher-self efficacy, the characteristics of this group of patients with COPD would generally be associated with lower self-efficacy. This study has identified a group of patients with COPD who have turned to the internet for information on their disease. The group is predominantly women and the majority of them have poorly controlled COPD. Credible medical websites have important roles to play for healthcare providers and for consumers. Understanding which characteristics of information consumers predict improvements in healthcare outcomes may allow segmentation and customization of website content to better meet consumer needs.
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