Home personal computer and internet use has expanded dramatically over the past decade. The Internet enables health care consumers to access information and supports a shift toward patient-centered care. Accordingly, the objective of this study was to determine the frequency of which Long Island residents use computers and the Internet in order gather information on health care.
This prospective study surveyed consecutive patients seen in a single practioner’s university-based office practice. Patients were administered computer and internet usage questionnaires.
There were 80 patients, median age 68 years, 60% male. 35% had coronary disease, 15% had heart failure, 10% had atrial fibrillation and 10% had valvular disease. 45% of patients owned a personal computer at home. Of the 20% of patients who were employed, 75% used a computer at work. 30% used the internet a mean of 3.7x/week and 3.8hours/week. The most common uses were: email:30% and shopping 20%. Health care information was accessed by only 10% and was more frequent among males, patients who were married, and those who were employed. 39% of the patients who did not access health care information had a first degree relative who did it on their behalf. Overall, 45% of patients either primarily or by surrogate used the Internet to access health care information.CONCLUSIONS: Although aprroximately half of cardiovascular patients own personal computers at home and some use computers at work, only 10% of patients access use the Internet to access health care information. This low utilization rate is in part counterbalanced by involvement of first degree relatives who access information on the patient’s behalf.
Web based strategies designed to target patients with cardiovascular disease need to consider surrogates who use Internet to access health care information. Further study is needed to characterize specific ways in which Internet is used to assist patients make decisions regarding health care.
J.M. Lazar, None.