The Internet has become a very important source of health information. We wanted to determine otolaryngology patients’ access to, and use of, the Internet as a medical information resource, to identify factors that make patients more likely to use it, and to determine how useful they find this information.
A questionnaire survey was completed by patients while waiting for their consultation in the out-patient department of the Royal National Throat Nose and Ear Hospital in London. Five hundred and thirty-five questionnaires were completed. Sixty-four per cent (344/535) reported having access to the Web. Of the 344 with access, 62 (18 per cent) had searched the Web for medical information prior to their consultation. Higher education (p <0.001) and age between 18 and 40 years (p = 0.001) correlated significantly with higher Internet use. Ninety-five per cent planned to use the Internet again.
Approximately one out of five otolaryngology out-patients with Internet access reported having obtained medical information from the Web before their consultation. The majority found it helpful to some degree and were planning to use it again. As clinicians we should be aware ofthis use and the onus should be on ourselves to review these sites in order to guide our patients to sources of reliable and helpful medical information on the Internet.