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J Health Serv Res Policy. 2003 Jan;8(1):33-9.

What predicts patients' interest in the Internet as a health resource in primary care in England?

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National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK.



To identify what factors predict patients' interest in using Internet health information in the light of poor uptake of a free, guided Internet service in one inner-city general practice.


Questionnaires were administered over a five-day period to consecutive adult patients attending two Manchester general practices: an inner-city practice serving a relatively deprived patient population where the free Internet service had previously been available, and a suburban practice serving a relatively affluent population. Data were analysed using multiple regression to identify predictors of self-reported interest in using the Internet for health information.


A total of 753 (74%) patients completed the questionnaire although analyses were restricted to 660 (65%) cases. Independent predictors of patient-reported interest in getting health information from the Internet were (in order of relative 'importance'): positive outcome expectancy (i.e. the patient's strength of belief that it would enable them to deal better with their health); previous use of health websites; positive 'self-efficacy' (i.e. patients' confidence in their ability to use the technology); higher education; a positive attitude to getting health information from alternative sources; social deprivation; and having school-age children living at home. Level of Internet access was an important determinant of self-efficacy, but home access was the key predictor of outcome expectancy and past use of 'e-health'.


Access, demographics and, particularly, motivational factors all influence patients' interest in the Internet as a health resource. Proposals to encourage more widespread use of digital health information need to take account of this complexity and not deal with access issues alone.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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