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J Am Med Inform Assoc. 2004 Nov-Dec;11(6):499-504. Epub 2004 Aug 6.

Patient Internet use for health information at three urban primary care clinics.

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School of Nursing, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, USA.



To survey a cross section of patients presenting to three urban primary care clinics to understand online health information search behaviors.


At three urban primary care clinics affiliated with University at Buffalo, School of Medicine, 315 patients were interviewed. Interview questions included items on education, demographic information, employment, number of current prescriptions, insurance, online access, and specifics of health-searching behaviors. Chart review determined patient body mass index and number of chronic illnesses. Logistic regression and chi2 statistics were used to investigate the relationship between patient characteristics and the proportion of patients who use the Web for seeking health information.


Approximately 53% of respondents reported using Web or e-mail in the past year and 68% (33% of total sample) of those who accessed the Web used it to search for health information. The two most commonly cited search areas included information about a physical illness and nutrition/fitness. Education and race significantly predicted online health-seeking behavior when considering all factors in the study. Many patients (22%) relied on friends and family to navigate the Web, and 45% of patients reported that the information that they sought was unrelated to their clinical visit.


Current use of the Internet for health information was limited among more disadvantaged patient groups. More research is needed to examine the relationship between health-seeking behavior and patients' management of their health and well-being.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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