Internet Health Information


Health information is one of the most frequently sought topics on the Internet. A review of the literature was carried out to determine the use of the Internet for health information by patients. This study summarizes multiple empirical studies on a single subject.


Health information is one of the most frequently sought topics on the Internet. On average 53% of Americans and 23% of Europeans search the Internet for health information. 41.5% of the people within the EU think that the Internet is a good way of obtaining health information.


Literature Review

Internet is widely available at home, work, libraries and thus convenient (Williams et al., 2003). Increased information from the Internet can improve patients’ understanding of their medical condition and self-care, thereby reducing unnecessary visits to the doctor (Wanless, 2002). There exists a strong relationship between Internet use and patients’ self-efficacy and health behaviour. (Eysenbach, 2003).


Internet literature search was conducted on the health electronic databases such PubMed, British Nursing Index, CINAHL, using the terms ‘Internet’, ‘health information’, ‘patient–health professional relationship’, between the years 1985–2005.


Patients do not see the Internet as a replacement for the health professional. People go online to confirm the information given and some go online if they become dissatisfied with the information provided to them.


It is important that health professionals acknowledge patients’ search for knowledge, and guide them to reliable health websites. Courses such as ‘health or patient informatics’ should be integrated in the health professional’s education.

Is the source academically suitable, and how do you know?

Yes. This source was published by Elsevier, one of the world's major providers of scientific, information and was established in 1880. The author of the source, Miriam McMullan from the University of Plymouth is an authority in the subject with 957 citations on research gate (

What is the purpose of the source?

Summarises information from reports and original research works to provide interpretation of information specific to our subject. Review was conducted to determine the patient's use of the Internet for health information and how this could influence the professional connection between patient and health professionals.

Explain who would find the source given to you most useful and why?

  • Health officials; Opens their mind to reality of shift in patients’ access to knowledge via the internet even prior to seeking consultation. This information should prepare them to be ready to engage clients in patient-centred relationship.
  • Patients; Gives insights to the reality of the power of the internet to patients pointing them in the direction of seeking answers about their conditions from the internet.

Why did you choose this source?

Has been cited 947 times on google scholar, the information is accurate, current, has clear objectives, and the topic has been adequately addressed.

What is the general issue that the source discusses?

Patient education through the internet

What sources have the authors referred to in order to support their research?

  • Fox S, Rainie L. The online health care revolution: how the web helps Americans take care of themselves. Washington, DC: Pew Charitable Trusts; 2000.
  • Fogel J, Albert SM, Schnabel F, Ditkoff BA, Neugut AI. Use of the Internet by women with breast cancer. J Med Internet Res 2002; 4:9.
  • Boyer C, Provost M, Baujard V. Highlights on the 8th HON survey of health and medical Internet users. Geneva: Health on the Net Foundation; 2002.
  • Pemberton PJ, Goldblatt J. The Internet and the changing roles of doctors, patients and families. Med J Aust 1998; 169:594–5.

What new information / interpretation does the source present to extend understanding of the subject area?

Presents a shift in the role of the patient from traditional passive recipient to active consumer of health information and response of Health professionals to the emerging ‘Internet informed’ patients.

Does the source collect and present new data? Or does it synthesize existing information based on an existing body of knowledge?

Synthesizes multiple empirical studies on a single subject based on existing body of knowledge.

What are the conclusions, and are you convinced by them?

Concludes that understanding of medical condition can improve patients’ self-efficacy and possibly empower them to make health decisions. I am convinced with the above conclusion. In addition, Health professionals respond to the more ‘Internet informed’ patient in one or more of three ways:

  • Feel threatened by the information the patient brings and respond defensively
  • Collaborate in obtaining and analysing the information
  • Guide patients to reliable health information websites

What gaps exist in the knowledge of the topic?

  • Knowledge about reliable quality repositories of health information
  • Patients’ education on how to ‘filter’ information

What questions could be researched to extend the field of knowledge about the topic and what information would need to be collected to conduct this research?

What is the possibility that most health information searches are done by health professionals or medical students rather than patients?

Feedback from internet users who search for health information if they are health professionals, students or patients.

How feasible would it be to carry out this research?

It is highly feasible. Similar studies have been conducted. One has to get the sources which are available then carry a similar research.

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  • Williams P, Huntington P, Nicholas D. Health Information on the Internet: a qualitative study of NHS direct online users. Aslib Proc 2003; 55:304–12.
  • Wanless D. Securing our future health: taking a long term view. Final Report. London: HMGO; 2002.
  • Eysenbach G. The impact of the Internet on cancer outcomes. CA Cancer J Clin 2003; 53:356–71.

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