First check the Internet, then see the Doctor: How many Patients do it, and who are they?

Peter J. Schulz, Maria Caiata Zufferey, Uwe Hartung


This study reports results from a survey of patients in physicians' practices in two different Swiss metropolitan areas, Berne and Lugano. The main focus of the survey was health information behavior, especially with regard to the Internet, and patients' use of the Internet for finding information on the condition they're seeking medical advice for. About one-fourth of patients were found to be condition-informed by the Internet at the time of consultation. This is largely independent of gender, but more frequent in the younger age groups and the better educated. Patients can be divided into information-behavior types such as health information seekers, chance finders, overlookers, and avoiders. Use of the Internet is predictably related to these types, as is the use of other media for health information with regard to patients' present conditions. This suggests a need to examine the relationship of Internet information-seeking behavior with other relevant behaviors. There are hints indicating that patients who were better reached by traditional information channels are also those who turn more often to the Internet for health information. However all in all, evidence for this is rather weak.


health communication; health information exchange in doctor patient consultation; health information seeking behavior on the internet

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Studies in Communication Sciences | ISSN: 1424-4896