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Chiropractic Research Review

Patients Trust Doctors for Health Information, but Many Use Other Sources First

The avenues by which patients receive health information have changed dramatically in the last decade. Thanks largely to the advent of the Internet, the type and amount of health information available to the general consumer is virtually limitless.

With the explosion of access to such information, however, myriad questions have surfaced about its validity, particularly information derived from the Internet. As a result, the type of communication that once existed between health care providers and their patients may be changing, leading to potential alterations in decision making and courses of treatment.

In this study, investigators analyzed data from HINTS, a national health trends survey, to determine the general public's use of, and trust in, various sources of health information. More than 6,300 American adults were interviewed and asked about their use of different health information channels, such as television, newspapers, and the Internet. They also were asked to rate their level of trust for each source, which source they would go to first for information on a specific disease (cancer), and (for those who had looked for information on cancer) where they actually went.

More than 63 percent of all adults with Internet access reported looking for some type of health or medical information, either for themselves or for someone else. When asked about their level of trust in finding information on cancer, 62.4 percent of the respondents said they trusted the information provided by physicians "a lot" compared to only 23.9 percent via the Internet. However, when asked what source they went to first for cancer information, 48.6 percent reported using the Internet, compared to just 10.9 percent who reported going to a health care provider.

The researchers stated that the survey data "portray a tectonic shift in the ways in which patients consume health and medical information." They added that the findings signal a change in the way health care professionals are portrayed by the public; they are no longer seen as "solitary caretakers" of information, but as "trusted partners in helping patients sort through information derived from an expanding network of personal and mediated information channels."

Hesse BW, Nelson DE, Kreps GL, et al. Trust and sources of health information. The impact of the Internet and its implications for health care providers: findings from the First Health Information National Trends Survey. Archives of Internal Medicine Dec. 12/26, 2005;165:2618-2624.

Chiropractic Research Review

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