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Patient Educ Couns. 2011 Dec;85(3):525-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pec.2011.01.015. Epub 2011 Feb 18.

Lingering questions and doubts: online information-seeking of support forum members following their medical visits.

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  • 1Department of Communication, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.



To examine the prevalence and predictors of patients' post-appointment online health information-seeking and the reasons behind their information searches.


Survey of 274 Internet support community members who had been seen by a physician within 30 days. The questionnaire included measures of trust in the physician, health worries, changes in amount of worrying following the visit, online health information-seeking, and standard demographic and visit characteristics.


A majority of respondents (68%) went online in search of information after their visits. In a logistic regression analysis, going online was associated with lower trust (P=.002), greater worrying (P=.049), and becoming more (P=.024) or less worried (P=.05) by the visit. Among those who went online, the most common reasons for doing so were sheer curiosity (71%) and disappointment with some aspect of the physician's behavior (32%).


Patients in this online forum routinely turned to the Internet after their medical visits, but were especially likely to do so when trust in the physician was low, anxieties were high, and the visit altered (for better or worse) their anxiety levels.


Since many patients seek online information after their appointments, physicians should suggest credible websites suited to the circumstances of each patient.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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