Document Type


Publication Date

June 2003


This is the final, refereed version of the article, as prepared for publication in The International Journal of Medical Informatics 2003, 72(1-3): 1-8. View the publisher's formatted version at:



Millions of people use the Internet as a source for health information yet little is understood about how the use of the Internet for health information is related to the doctor-patient relationship.


We conducted the present study to understand the association between one’s interest in using the Internet for general and quality-oriented health information and attitudes about one’s communications with health care provider(s).


Cross-sectional survey.


Four community-based primary care practices in Rhode Island.


A single self-administered survey included items to measure: interest in using the Internet to look for general and quality-oriented information and a patient’s perceptions of the degree to which their doctors over the previous year have: 1) given them information and 2) engaged them in the decision-making process.


A total of 300 patients completed the survey. Among patients without Internet access, interest in using the Internet for health related activities was less among patients who felt that their doctor gave less information: Odds ratio 0.83 (95% CI, 0.70 to 0.98) and greater among patients who felt that their doctor engaged them more in decision making: Odds ratio 1.3 (95% CI, 1.1-1.6). Among patients with Internet access, we found no relationship between interest in using the Internet for health related activities and measures of patient-physician communication or patient-physician decision making.


Interest in using the Internet for health information is greater for those who 1) felt their doctors provided less information and 2) felt their doctors engaged them more in the decision-making process, but this is true only for those without access to the Internet.



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