How Do Healthcare Websites Affect the Physician-Patient Relationship?
Ergebnisse einer Nutzerbefragunggerman translation / full article
Results of a User Survey
Background: Today, many patients use healthcare websites. Such sites do not only offer health tips, information on disease symptoms and progression as well as therapy options but also the chance to discuss topics with other users and receive medical experts’ advice. While the frequency of use of healthcare websites is well-researched, only few studies provide information concerning the effects these websites have on the physician-patient relationship and on the patients’ health behavior. This study aims to narrow down this research gap.
Methods: In the course of an online survey, 234 users of eleven German healthcare websites were interviewed. In addition to the descriptive analysis, a t-test was used to determine significant differences between two groups (e.g. women and men) in independent samples. For more than two groups, a one-factor variance analysis was performed. Two levels of significance were tested (mean value difference at the level p .05 and p .001).
Results: The results show that healthcare websites can both support and weaken doctor-patient relationships. There is alarming evidence of a growing disorientation and uncertainty among some of the users of such services, e.g. due to conflicting information.
Conclusions: On the basis of these results, the authors argue that patients’ online research should be actively addressed as part of medical history taking so that negative effects on the physician-patient relationship can be prevented.