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J Med Internet Res. 2013 Oct 2;15(10):e220. doi: 10.2196/jmir.2607.

Internet and social media for health-related information and communication in health care: preferences of the Dutch general population.

Author information

  • 1Radboud REshape and Innovation Center, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen, Netherlands. tom.vandebelt@radboudumc.nl.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Health care is increasingly featured by the use of Web 2.0 communication and collaborative technologies that are reshaping the way patients and professionals interact. These technologies or tools can be used for a variety of purposes: to instantly debate issues, discover news, analyze research, network with peers, crowd-source information, seek support, and provide advice. Not all tools are implemented successfully; in many cases, the nonusage attrition rates are high. Little is known about the preferences of the Dutch general population regarding the use of the Internet and social media in health care.

OBJECTIVE:

To determine the preferences of the general population in the Netherlands regarding the use of the Internet and social media in health care.

METHODS:

A cross-sectional survey was disseminated via a popular Dutch online social network. Respondents were asked where they searched for health-related information, how they qualified the value of different sources, and their preferences regarding online communication with health care providers. Results were weighed for the Dutch population based on gender, age, and level of education using official statistics. Numbers and percentages or means and standard deviations were presented for different subgroups. One-way ANOVA was used to test for statistical differences.

RESULTS:

The survey was completed by 635 respondents. The Internet was found to be the number one source for health-related information (82.7%), closely followed by information provided by health care professionals (71.1%). Approximately one-third (32.3%) of the Dutch population search for ratings of health care providers. The most popular information topics were side effects of medication (62.5%) and symptoms (59.7%). Approximately one-quarter of the Dutch population prefer to communicate with a health care provider via social media (25.4%), and 21.2% would like to communicate via a webcam.

CONCLUSIONS:

The Internet is the main source of health-related information for the Dutch population. One in 4 persons wants to communicate with their physician via social media channels and it is expected that this number will further increase. Health care providers should explore new ways of communicating online and should facilitate ways for patients to connect with them. Future research should aim at comparing different patient groups and diseases, describing best practices, and determining cost-effectiveness.

KEYWORDS:

Health 2.0; consumer health information; empowerment; patient participation; social media

PMID:
24088272
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3806385
Free PMC Article
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