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Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Apr;77(4 Suppl):1016S-1018S.

The Internet and primary care physicians: coping with different expectations.

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Communication and Innovation Studies, Wageningen University, Social Sciences, Wageningen, The Netherlands.


The birth of the Internet is one of the most important developments in the past 2 decades. It is a new medium, especially in the sense that the initiative now rests on the information user, who is no longer just a receiver of information. In part, the use of the Internet to find answers to health-related questions (medical, but also psychological, social, financial, legal) is linked to problems within existing practices. People use the Internet for several reasons: to obtain information that they could not get from their physicians, to verify a medical opinion or treatment, or to overcome reticence in discussing personal issues. Physicians' experience is changing because their patients are using the Internet. Many patients are better informed, and they ask more questions and demand more from their physicians. As a result, there is increased interaction concerning health issues. In addition, there is greater differentiation among patients, precisely because of their different information-seeking behavior. In coping with this inequality, physicians can select among 3 approaches, each with associated costs and benefits: 1) the medical model, in which the physicians follow the "essentials" of the profession (treatment and advice); 2) the client-oriented model, in which the physicians adapt to patients' needs, approaching patients as they would any other consumers; and 3) the educational model, in which physicians promote the proper use of the Internet as a profitable and equalizing medium.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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