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1.  Online Communication Between Doctors and Patients in Europe: Status and Perspectives 
Use of the Internet for health purposes is steadily increasing in Europe, while the eHealth market is still a niche. Online communication between doctor and patient is one aspect of eHealth with potentially great impact on the use of health systems, patient-doctor roles and relations and individuals’ health. Monitoring and understanding practices, trends, and expectations in this area is important, as it may bring invaluable knowledge to all stakeholders, in the Health 2.0 era.
Our two main goals were: (1) to investigate use of the Internet and changes in expectations about future use for particular aspects of communication with a known doctor (obtaining a prescription, scheduling an appointment, or asking a particular health question), and (2) to investigate how important the provision of email and Web services to communicate with the physician is when choosing a new doctor for a first time face-to-face appointment. The data come from the second survey of the eHealth Trends study, which addressed trends and perspectives of health-related Internet use in Europe. This study builds on previous work that established levels of generic use of the Internet for self-help activities, ordering medicine or other health products, interacting with a Web doctor/unknown health professional, and communicating with a family doctor or other known health professional.
A representative sample of citizens from seven European countries was surveyed (n = 7022) in April and May of 2007 through computer-assisted telephone interviews (CATI). Respondents were questioned about their use of the Internet to obtain a prescription, schedule an appointment, or ask a health professional about a particular health question. They were also asked what their expectations were regarding future use of the Internet for health-related matters. In a more pragmatic approach to the subject, they were asked about the perceived importance when choosing a new doctor of the possibility of using email and the Web to communicate with that physician. Logistic regression analysis was used to draw the profiles of users of related eHealth services in Europe among the population in general and in the subgroup of those who use the Internet for health-related matters. Changes from 2005 to 2007 were computed using data from the first eHealth Trends survey (October and November 2005, n = 7934).
In 2007, an estimated 1.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.5 - 2.1) of the population in these countries had used the Internet to request or renew a prescription; 3.2% (95% CI 2.8 - 3.6) had used the Internet to schedule an appointment; and 2.5% (95% CI 2.2 - 2.9) had used the Internet to ask a particular health question. This represents estimated increases of 0.9% (95% CI 0.5 - 1.3), 1.7% (95% CI 1.2 - 2.2), and 1.4% (95% CI 0.9 - 1.8). An estimated 18.0% (95% CI 17.1 - 18.9) of the populations of these countries expected that in the near future they would have consultations with health professionals online, and 25.4% (95% CI 24.4 - 26.3) expected that in the near future they would be able to schedule an appointment online. Among those using the Internet for health-related purposes, on average more than 4 in 10 people considered the provision of these eHealth services to be important when choosing a new doctor.
Use of the Internet to communicate with a known health professional is still rare in Europe. Legal context, health policy issues, and technical conditions prevailing in different countries might be playing a major role in the situation. Interest in associated eHealth services is high among citizens and likely to increase.
PMCID: PMC2956231  PMID: 20551011
Online physician-patient interaction; email communication; online prescription ordering; scheduling appointments online; eHealth services utilization and trends; Internet; Europe; survey; logistic regression analysis
2.  Advice from a Medical Expert through the Internet on Queries about AIDS and Hepatitis: Analysis of a Pilot Experiment 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(7):e256.
Advice from a medical expert on concerns and queries expressed anonymously through the Internet by patients and later posted on the Web, offers a new type of patient–doctor relationship. The aim of the current study was to perform a descriptive analysis of questions about AIDS and hepatitis made to an infectious disease expert and sent through the Internet to a consumer-oriented Web site in the Spanish language.
Methods and Findings
Questions were e-mailed and the questions and answers were posted anonymously in the “expert-advice” section of a Web site focused on AIDS and hepatitis. We performed a descriptive study and a temporal analysis of the questions received in the first 12 months after the launch of the site. A total of 899 questions were received from December 2003 to November 2004, with a marked linear growth pattern. Questions originated in Spain in 68% of cases and 32% came from Latin America (the Caribbean, Central America, and South America). Eighty percent of the senders were male. Most of the questions concerned HIV infection (79%) with many fewer on hepatitis (17%) . The highest numbers of questions were submitted just after the weekend (37% of questions were made on Mondays and Tuesdays). Risk factors for contracting HIV infection were the most frequent concern (69%), followed by the window period for detection (12.6%), laboratory results (5.9%), symptoms (4.7%), diagnosis (2.7%), and treatment (2.2%).
Our results confirm a great demand for this type of “ask-the-expert” Internet service, at least for AIDS and hepatitis. Factors such as anonymity, free access, and immediate answers have been key factors in its success.
Editors' Summary
Although substantial progress has been made in the fight against HIV/AIDS, in terms of developing new treatments and understanding factors that cause the disease to worsen, putting this knowledge into practice can be difficult. Two main barriers exist that can prevent individuals seeking information or treatment. The first is the considerable social stigma still associated with HIV; the second is the poverty of the developing countries—such as those in Latin America—where the disease has reached pandemic proportions. In addition, the disease, which used to be spread mainly through the sharing of injecting drug needles or through sex between men, has now entered the general population. When healthcare services are limited, people are often unable to seek information about HIV, and even when services do exist, the cost of accessing them can be too high. The same is true for other diseases such as hepatitis infection, which often co-exists with HIV. The Internet has the potential to go some way to filling this health information gap. And, many patients seek information on the Internet before consulting their doctor.
Why Was This Study Done?
In 2003, the Madrid-based newspaper El Mundo launched an HIV and hepatitis information resource situated in the health section of its existing Web site. One aspect of this resource was an “ask-the-expert” section, in which readers could anonymously e-mail questions about HIV and hepatitis that would be answered by an infectious disease expert. These ranged from how the diseases can be transmitted and who is most at risk, to what to do if an individual thinks they might have the disease. There seems to be a clear need for this Spanish-language service; in Latin America, 2.1 million people are infected with HIV, with 230,000 new cases in 2005. In the Caribbean, AIDS is the leading cause of death in people aged 15–44 years. In Spain, 71,000 people were infected with HIV in 2005. Although the Internet contains a vast store of health information, and many aspects of patient–doctor interactions have been made electronic, little is known about what format is ideal. The researchers, who included employees of the newspaper, decided to investigate the effectiveness of the question–answer format used by El Mundo.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the first 12 months after the service was launched, the researchers recorded several details: what day of the week questions were sent, what the questions were about, and whether they were sent by the person needing the information or by a family member or friend. They also noted demographic information, such as the age, sex, and country of origin of the person e-mailing the question.
Of 899 questions sent to the Web site between December 2003 and November 2004, most (80%) were sent by males. Most questions came from Spain, followed by Latin America, and most questions were sent on Mondays and Tuesdays. Some e-mails were from people who felt they had been waiting too long for an answer to their first e-mail—despite the mean time for answering a question being fewer than seven days. Messages of support for the Web site rose during the year from 2% to 22%.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The messages of support and encouragement sent in by users indicated that the service was well-received and useful. Most of the questions were about HIV rather than about hepatitis, which the researchers say could represent the more prominent media coverage of HIV. However, despite the disease's high profile, the questions about HIV were very basic. It could also mean that people hold a false impression that hepatitis is a less serious illness or that they have more information about it than about HIV.
Since most questions were sent in at the start of the week, the researchers believe that many individuals wrote in after engaging in potentially risky sexual behaviour over the weekend.
The researchers also found that existing information on the Web site already answered many of the new questions, indicating that people prefer a question-and-answer model over ready-prepared information. The anonymity, free access, and immediacy of the Internet-based service suggest this could be a model for providing other types of health information.
The findings also suggest that such a service can highlight the needs and concerns of specific populations and can help health planners and policymakers respond to those needs in their countries.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• The AIDSinfo Web site from the US Department of Health and Human Services provides information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention and has sections specially written for patients and the general public
• AVERT, an international AIDS charity, has a section on HIV in Latin America that includes details of transmission, infection rates, and treatment
Marco and colleagues analyzed questions sent by the public to a Spanish language "ask-the-expert" Internet site, and found that 70% of queries were about risk factors for acquiring HIV.
PMCID: PMC1483911  PMID: 16796404
3.  Don’t Forget the Doctor: Gastroenterologists’ Preferences on the Development of mHealth Tools for Inflammatory Bowel Disease 
JMIR mHealth and uHealth  2015;3(1):e5.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) encompasses a number of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. Treatment for IBD is lifelong and complex, and the majority of IBD patients seek information on the Internet. However, research has found existing digital resources to be of questionable quality and that patients find content lacking. Gastroenterologists are frontline sources of information for North American IBD patients, but their opinions and preferences for digital content, design, and utility have not been investigated. The purpose of this study is to systematically explore gastroenterologists’ perceptions of, and design preferences for, mHealth tools.
Our goal was to critically assess these issues and elicit expert feedback by seeking consensus with Canadian gastroenterologists.
Using a qualitative approach, a closed meeting with 7 gastroenterologists was audio recorded and field notes taken. To synthesize results, an anonymous questionnaire was collected at the end of the session. Participant-led discussion themes included methodological approaches to non-adherence, concordance, patient-centricity, and attributes of digital tools that would be actively supported and promoted.
Survey results indicated that 4 of the 7 gastroenterologists had experienced patients bringing digital resources to a visit, but 5 found digital patient resources to be inaccurate or irrelevant. All participants agreed that digital tools were of increasing importance and could be leveraged to aid in consultations and save time. When asked to assess digital attributes that they would be confident to refer patients to, all seven indicated that the inclusion of evidence-based facts were of greatest importance. Patient peer-support networks were deemed an asset but only if closely monitored by experts. When asked about interventions, nearly all (6/7) preferred tools that addressed a mix of compliance and concordance, and only one supported the development of tools that focused on compliance. Participants confirmed that they would actively refer patients and other physicians to digital resources. However, while a number of digital IBD tools exist, gastroenterologists would be reluctant to endorse them.
Gastroenterologists appear eager to use digital resources that they believe benefit the physician-patient relationship, but despite the trend of patient-centric tools that focus on concordance (shared decision making and enlightened communication between patients and their health care providers), they would prefer digital tools that highlight compliance (patient following orders). This concordance gap highlights an issue of disparity in digital health: patients may not use tools that physicians promote, and physicians may not endorse tools that patients will use. Further research investigating the concordance gap, and tensions between physician preferences and patient needs, is required.
PMCID: PMC4319145  PMID: 25608628
mHealth; adherence; concordance; compliance; shared decision making; therapeutic alliance; gastroenterology; IBD; ulcerative colitis
4.  Internet Use among Ugandan Adolescents: Implications for HIV Intervention 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(11):e433.
The Internet is fast gaining recognition as a powerful, low-cost method to deliver health intervention and prevention programs to large numbers of young people across diverse geographic regions. The feasibility and accessibility of Internet-based health interventions in resource-limited settings, where cost-effective interventions are most needed, is unknown. To determine the utility of developing technology-based interventions in resource-limited settings, availability and patterns of usage of the Internet first need to be assessed.
Methods and Findings
The Uganda Media and You Survey was a cross-sectional survey of Internet use among adolescents (ages 12–18 years) in Mbarara, Uganda, a municipality mainly serving a rural population in sub-Saharan Africa. Participants were randomly selected among eligible students attending one of five participating secondary day and boarding schools in Mbarara, Uganda. Of a total of 538 students selected, 93% (500) participated.
Of the total respondents, 45% (223) reported ever having used the Internet, 78% (175) of whom reported going online in the previous week. As maternal education increased, so too did the odds of adolescent Internet use. Almost two in five respondents (38% [189]) reported already having used a computer or the Internet to search for health information. Over one-third (35% [173]) had used the computer or Internet to find information about HIV/AIDS, and 20% (102) had looked for sexual health information. Among Internet users, searching for HIV/AIDS information on a computer or online was significantly related to using the Internet weekly, emailing, visiting chat rooms, and playing online games. In contrast, going online at school was inversely related to looking for HIV/AIDS information via technology. If Internet access were free, 66% (330) reported that they would search for information about HIV/AIDS prevention online.
Both the desire to use, and the actual use of, the Internet to seek sexual health and HIV/AIDS information is high among secondary school students in Mbarara. The Internet may be a promising strategy to deliver low-cost HIV/AIDS risk reduction interventions in resource-limited settings with expanding Internet access.
A survey among 500 adolescent pupils in rural Uganda suggests widespread interest in online information about sexual health and HIV/AIDS. Over one-third of Internet users had already searched for relevant information online, and many of the others said they would like to educate themselves about HIV/AIDS online.
Editors' Summary
HIV/AIDS is a major health burden in sub-Saharan Africa, including Uganda. Despite a recent reduction of the number of HIV-infected individuals, HIV transmission remains a problem among Ugandan adolescents. Recent surveys suggest that about half of sexually active adolescents do not consistently use condoms, and that young people are less knowledgeable about HIV than they were 15 years ago.
Why Was This Study Done?
The Internet has a number of characteristics that make it an attractive tool in health education and HIV prevention, especially for adolescents—including interactivity, privacy, the overlap between education and play, and the ability to individualize information based on an initial assessment of background conditions, interest, and knowledge. It is also thought that despite these advantages, the Internet's potential in resource-poor settings with higher HIV infection rates and limited access to other health care resources has not been explored much. This study was done to gain some initial insights on the desired and actual use of the Internet to seek sexual health and HIV/AIDS information among adolescents in Uganda.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
They did a survey of 500 adolescent pupils randomly selected from five participating boarding schools in Mbarara, a small town in a rural part of Uganda. They asked three questions: To what extent are the adolescents exposed to computers and the Internet? Are they interested in accessing health information online? Who uses the Internet and how? Almost half of the participants said they had used the Internet at least once, and the majority said they had been online during the previous week. Most Internet users (82%) reported going online at school; 57% said they use Internet cafes, 17% access the Internet at home; and 11% at someone else's house. More than a third of all participants reported having used the Internet or computer to look up health information, and many had been looking for information on sexual health and HIV/AIDS. About two-thirds of the participants said that if Internet use were free, they would search for information on sexual health and HIV/AIDS prevention. The researchers analyzed the responses further to identify the most influential factors in whether one of the Internet users would go online to educate themselves about HIV/AIDS. They found that those participants who used the Internet more often and those who engaged in online activities like chat rooms, games, and e-mail, were more likely to search for HIV/AIDS information. On the other hand, those who went online only at school were less likely to do so.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Approximately the same proportion—roughly one-third—of adolescents in a rural setting in Uganda reported having used the Internet to look up health-related information as of young people in the United States. Together with the result that an additional third said that they would go online to educate themselves about HIV/AIDS if Internet use was free, this study suggests that initiatives in Africa to improve online access for adolescents as well as to develop content tailored for young people in specific settings would make a difference.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
Links page for adolescents and youth from HIV InSite at UCSF
Africa Initiative
HIV/AIDS education module from the US Public Broadcasting System
Lesson plan for “Using the Internet to Access Sexual Health Information” from the Information Institute of Syracuse
PMCID: PMC1630714  PMID: 17090211
5.  Information Needs and Visitors' Experience of an Internet Expert Forum on Infertility 
Patients increasingly use health portals and Web-based expert forums (ask-the-doctor services), but little is known about the specific needs of Internet users visiting such websites, the nature of their requests, or how satisfied they are with Internet health experts.
The aim of this study was to analyze the information requests of (mostly female) patients visiting an Internet expert forum on involuntary childlessness and their satisfaction with the experts' feedback.
We posted an electronic questionnaire on a website hosting an expert forum on involuntary childlessness. The questionnaire was “activated” whenever a visitor sent a question or request to the expert forum. The survey focused on the reasons for visiting the expert forum and whether the visitors were satisfied with the experts' answers to previously posted questions. The free-text questions of visitors who answered the survey were analyzed using Atlas-ti, a software program for qualitative data analysis.
Over a period of 6 months, 513 out of 610 visitors (84%) answered the questionnaire. The majority of respondents (65.5%) expected general information about involuntary childlessness, conception, or an evaluation of drugs. Others were concerned about their actual treatment (40.6%) and therapeutic options (28.8%). Out of 225 respondents who had previously contacted the forum, 223 had received an answer, and 123 (55.2%) were satisfied with the experts' answers. About half (105/223) of those users who had previously received an answer from the expert forum stated that they had discussed it with their own doctor. More of these users were satisfied with their subsequent care in fertility clinics than users who did not talk to their doctor about their Internet activities (93.9% vs 76.1%; P = .015 ). According to the qualitative analysis, many requests (n = 194) were more or less trivial, especially those for information on basic aspects of reproduction. More than one-third of visitors (n = 199) sent detailed results of diagnostic tests and asked for a first or second opinion. Requests to the expert forum were also sent in order to obtain emotional support (17%) or to complain about a doctor (15%).
Visitors who sent their laboratory findings to receive a thorough evaluation or a second opinion had a good command of the opportunities that an expert forum offers. One important expectation of the forum was emotional support, indicating psychological needs that were not met by medical providers. Future websites must find a compromise in order to protect experts from being overwhelmed by general, nonspecific requests while supporting patients with individualized answers.
PMCID: PMC1550645  PMID: 15998611
Consumer health informatics; telemedicine; Internet; e-health; infertility; remote consultation
6.  Effects of the expansion of doctors’ offices adjacent to private pharmacies in Mexico: secondary data analysis of a national survey 
BMJ Open  2014;4(5):e004669.
To compare the sociodemographic characteristics, reasons for attending, perception of quality and associated out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditures of doctors’ offices adjacent to private pharmacies (DAPPs) users with users of Social Security (SS), Ministry of Health (MoH), private doctor's offices independent from pharmacies and non-users.
Secondary data analysis of the 2012 National Survey of Health and Nutrition of Mexico.
The study population comprised 25 852 individuals identified as having had a health problem 15 days before the survey, and a random sample of 12 799 ambulatory health service users.
Outcome measures
Sociodemographic characteristics, reasons for attending healthcare services, perception of quality and associated OOP expenditures.
The distribution of users was as follows: DAPPs (9.2%), SS (16.1%), MoH (20.9%), private providers (15.4%) and non-users (38.5%); 65% of DAPP users were affiliated with a public institution (MoH 35%, SS 30%) and 35% reported not having health coverage. DAPP users considered the services inexpensive, convenient and with a short waiting time, yet they received ≥3 medications more often (67.2%, 95% CI 64.2% to 70.1%) than users of private doctors (55.7%, 95% CI 52.5% to 58.6%) and public institutions (SS 53.8%, 95% CI 51.6% to 55.9%; MoH 44.7%, 95% CI 42.5% to 47.0%). The probability of spending on consultations (88%, 95% CI 86% to 89%) and on medicines (97%, 95% CI 96% to 98%) was much higher for DAPP users when compared with SS (2%, 95% CI 2% to 3% and 12%, 95% CI 11% to 14%, respectively) and MoH users (11%, 95% CI 9% to 12% and 32%, 95% CI 30% to 34%, respectively).
DAPPs counteract current financial protection policies since a significant percentage of their users were affiliated with a public institution, reported higher OOP spending and higher number of medicines prescribed than users of other providers. The overprescription should prompt studies to learn about DAPPs’ quality of care, which may arise from the conflict of interest implicit in the linkage of prescribing and dispensing processes.
PMCID: PMC4039785  PMID: 24852298
Primary Care
7.  Identification of general characteristics, motivation, and satisfaction of internet-based medical consultation service users in Croatia 
Croatian Medical Journal  2011;52(4):557-565.
To identify users’ reasons to look for physician consultation on the internet instead of visiting a physician and to explore their general characteristics, motivation, and satisfaction with internet medical consultation service ‘Your Questions.’
Users of a free internet medical consultation service ‘Your Questions’ ( were invited to participate in a web-based survey designed to explore their general characteristics (age, sex, etc), reasons for using the service, the nature of their health problem or question, and their satisfaction with the service. Respondents were divided into two groups: users who consulted an internet physician only (Group I) and users who used internet consulting before or after visiting a physician (Group II).
The response rate was 38% (1036/2747), with 79% female respondents. A fifth of the respondents (21%) consulted an internet physician only (Group I). Multivariate analysis revealed that the respondents in Group I were younger (median 24 vs 28 years in Group II), more interested into questions about pregnancy (odds ratio [OR], 1.984; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.203-3.272), more often embarrassed to talk to a physician in person (OR, 1.828; 95% CI, 1.119-2.989), and more motivated to protect their privacy (OR, 1.727; 95% CI, 1.252-2.380). They also had greater satisfaction with the service (77% vs 60%, P < 0.001).
The factors associated with the use of internet-based medical consultation services were younger age, need for privacy protection, avoidance of embarrassment at the physician’s office, and having a question related to pregnancy. This reveals the internet medical consultation service as a useful health promotion supplement that is particularly applicable for the population of young adults.
PMCID: PMC3160707  PMID: 21853551
8.  Patient Perspectives on Online Health Information and Communication With Doctors: A Qualitative Study of Patients 50 Years Old and Over 
As health care systems around the world shift toward models that emphasize self-care management, there is increasing pressure for patients to obtain health information online. It is critical that patients are able to identify potential problems with using the Internet to diagnose and treat a health issue and that they feel comfortable communicating with their doctor about the health information they acquire from the Internet.
Our aim was to examine patient-identified (1) problems with using the Internet to identify and treat a health issue, (2) barriers to communication with a doctor about online health information seeking, and (3) facilitators of communication with a doctor about patient searches for health information on the Internet.
For this qualitative exploratory study, semistructured interviews were conducted with a sample of 56 adults age 50 years old and over. General concerns regarding use of the Internet to diagnose and treat a health issue were examined separately for participants based on whether they had ever discussed health information obtained through the Internet with a doctor. Discussions about barriers to and facilitators of communication about patient searches for health information on the Internet with a doctor were analyzed using thematic analysis.
Six higher-level general concerns emerged: (1) limitations in own ability, (2) credibility/limitations of online information, (3) anxiety, (4) time consumption, (5) conflict, and (6) non-physical harm. The most prevalent concern raised by participants who communicated with a doctor about their online health information seeking related to the credibility or limitations in online information. Participants who had never communicated with a doctor about their online health information seeking most commonly reported concerns about non-physical harm. Four barriers to communication emerged: (1) concerns about embarrassment, (2) concerns that the doctor doesn’t want to hear about it, (3) belief that there is no need to bring it up, and (4) forgetting to bring it up. Facilitators of communication included: (1) having a family member present at doctor visits, (2) doctor-initiated inquiries, and (3) encountering an advertisement that suggested talking with a doctor.
Overall, participants displayed awareness of potential problems related to online health information seeking. Findings from this study point to a set of barriers as well as facilitators of communication about online health information seeking between patients and doctors. This study highlights the need for enhanced patient communication skills, eHealth literacy assessments that are accompanied by targeted resources pointing individuals to high-quality credible online health information, and the need to remind patients of the importance of consulting a medical professional when they use online health resources to diagnose and treat a health issue.
PMCID: PMC4319073  PMID: 25586865
health communication; Internet; online health information seeking; barriers to patient-doctor communication; adults 50 years old and over; qualitative research
9.  "Seeing a doctor is just like having a date": a qualitative study on doctor shopping among overactive bladder patients in Hong Kong 
BMC Family Practice  2014;15:27.
Although having a regular primary care provider is noted to be beneficial to health, doctor shopping has been documented as a common treatment seeking behavior among chronically ill patients in different countries. However, little research has been conducted into the reasons behind doctor shopping behavior among patients with overactive bladder, and even less into how this behavior relates to these patients’ illness and social experiences, perceptions, and cultural practices. Therefore, this study examines overactive bladder patients to investigate the reasons behind doctor shopping behavior.
My study takes a qualitative approach, conducting 30 semi-structured individual interviews, with 30 overactive bladder patients in Hong Kong.
My study found six primary themes that influenced doctor shopping behavior: lack of perceived need, convenience, work-provided medical insurance, unpleasant experiences with doctors, searching for a match doctor, and switching between biomedicine and traditional Chinese medicine. Besides the perceptual factors, participants’ social environment, illness experiences, personal cultural preference, and cultural beliefs also intertwined to generate their doctor shopping behavior. Due to the low perceived need for a regular personal primary care physician, environmental factors such as time, locational convenience, and work-provided medical insurance became decisive in doctor shopping behavior. Patients’ unpleasant illness experiences, stemming from a lack of understanding among many primary care doctors about overactive bladder, contributed to participants’ sense of mismatch with these doctors, which induced them to shop for another doctor.
Overactive bladder is a chronic bladder condition with very limited treatment outcome. Although patients with overactive bladder often require specialty urology treatment, it is usually beneficial for the patients to receive continuous, coordinated, comprehensive, and patient-centered support from their primary care providers. Primary care doctors’ understanding on patients with overactive bladder with empathetic attitudes is important to reduce the motivations of doctor shopping behavior among these patients.
PMCID: PMC3936809  PMID: 24502367
Hong Kong; Doctor shopping; Perceptions; Social environment; Illness and treatment experiences; Personal cultural preference; Cultural beliefs; Overactive bladder patients
10.  ‘I need her to be a doctor’: patients’ experiences of presenting health information from the internet in GP consultations 
The British Journal of General Practice  2012;62(604):e732-e738.
Patients are increasingly using the internet for health-related information and may bring this to a GP consultation. There is scant information about why patients do this and what they expect from their GP.
The aim was to explore patients’ motivation in presenting information, their perception of the GP’s response and what they wanted from their doctor.
Design and setting
Qualitative study based in North London involving patients with experience of bringing health information from the internet to their GP.
Semi-structured face-to-face and telephone interviews using a critical incident technique, recorded, transcribed verbatim, and subjected to thematic analysis by a multidisciplinary team of researchers.
Twenty-six interviews were completed. Participants reported using the internet to become better informed about their health and hence make best use of the limited time available with the GP and to enable the GP to take their problem more seriously. Patients expected their GP to acknowledge the information; discuss, explain, or contextualise it; and offer a professional opinion. Patients tended to prioritise the GP opinion over the internet information. However, if the GP appeared disinterested, dismissive or patronising patients reported damage to the doctor–patient relationship, occasionally to the extent of seeking a second opinion or changing their doctor.
This is the first in-depth qualitative study to explore why patients present internet information to their GP within the consultation and what they want when they do this. This information should help GPs respond appropriately in such circumstances.
PMCID: PMC3481513  PMID: 23211176
family practice; internet; patient participation; physician–patient relations; qualitative research
11.  Analysis of questions asked by family doctors regarding patient care 
BMJ : British Medical Journal  1999;319(7206):358-361.
To characterise the information needs of family doctors by collecting the questions they asked about patient care during consultations and to classify these in ways that would be useful to developers of knowledge bases.
Observational study in which investigators visited doctors for two half days and collected their questions. Taxonomies were developed to characterise the clinical topic and generic type of information sought for each question.
Eastern Iowa.
Random sample of 103 family doctors.
Main outcome measures
Number of questions posed, pursued, and answered; topic and generic type of information sought for each question; time spent pursuing answers; information resources used.
Participants asked a total of 1101 questions. Questions about drug prescribing, obstetrics and gynaecology, and adult infectious disease were most common and comprised 36% of all questions. The taxonomy of generic questions included 69 categories; the three most common types, comprising 24% of all questions, were “What is the cause of symptom X?” “What is the dose of drug X?” and “How should I manage disease or finding X?” Answers to most questions (702, 64%) were not immediately pursued, but, of those pursued, most (318, 80%) were answered. Doctors spent an average of less than 2 minutes pursuing an answer, and they used readily available print and human resources. Only two questions led to a formal literature search.
Family doctors in this study did not pursue answers to most of their questions. Questions about patient care can be organised into a limited number of generic types, which could help guide the efforts of knowledge base developers.
Key messagesQuestions that doctors have about the care of their patients could help guide the content of medical information sources and medical trainingIn this study of US family doctors, participants frequently had questions about patient care but did not pursue answers to most questions (64%)On average, participants spent less than 2 minutes seeking an answer to a questionThe most common resources used to answer questions included textbooks and colleagues; formal literature searches were rarely performedThe most common generic questions were “What is the cause of symptom X?” “What is the dose of drug X?” and “How should I manage disease or finding X?”
PMCID: PMC28191  PMID: 10435959
12.  Survey of Doctors' Experience of Patients Using the Internet 
There have been many studies showing the variable quality of Internet health information and it has often been assumed that patients will blindly follow this and frequently come to harm. There have also been reports of problems for doctors and health services following patient Internet use, but their frequency has not been quantified. However, there have been no large, rigorous surveys of the perceptions of Internet-aware doctors about the actual benefits and harms to their patients of using the Internet.
To describe Internet-literate doctors' experiences of their patients' use of the Internet and resulting benefits and problems.
Online survey to a group of 800 Web-using doctors (members of a UK medical Internet service provider, Medix) in September and October 2001.
Responses were received from 748 (94%) doctors, including 375 general practitioners (50%). Respondents estimated that 1%-2% of their patients used the Internet for health information in the past month with no regional variation. Over two thirds of the doctors considered Internet health information to be usually (20%) or sometimes (48%) reliable; this was higher in those recently qualified. Twice as many reported patients experiencing benefits (85%; 95% confidence interval, 80%-90%) than problems (44%; 95% confidence interval, 37%-50%) from the Internet. Patients gaining actual physical benefits from Internet use were reported by 40% of respondents, while 8% reported physical harm. Patients' overall experiences with the Internet were judged excellent 1%, good 29%, neutral 62%, poor 9%, or bad <1%. Turning to the impact of patient Internet use on the doctors themselves, 13% reported no problems, 38% 1 problem, and 49% 2 or more problems. Conversely, 20% reported no benefits for themselves, 49% 1 benefit, and 21% 2 or more benefits.
These doctors reported patient benefits from Internet use much more often than harms, but there were more problems than benefits for the doctors themselves. Reported estimates of patient Internet usage rates were low. Overall, this survey suggests that patients are deriving considerable benefits from using the Internet and that some of the claimed risks seem to have been exaggerated.
PMCID: PMC1761928  PMID: 11956037
Internet; information quality; attitude to computers; questionnaires; patient education
13.  ‘First we go to the small doctor’: First contact for curative health care sought by rural communities in Andhra Pradesh & Orissa, India 
Background & objectives:
Against the backdrop of insufficient public supply of primary care and reports of informal providers, the present study sought to collect descriptive evidence on 1st contact curative health care seeking choices among rural communities in two States of India - Andhra Pradesh (AP) and Orissa.
The cross-sectional study design combined a Household Survey (1,810 households in AP; 5,342 in Orissa), 48 Focus Group Discussions (19 in AP; 29 in Orissa), and 61 Key Informant Interviews with healthcare providers (22 in AP; 39 in Orissa).
In AP, 69.5 per cent of respondents accessed non-degree allopathic practitioners (NDAPs) practicing in or near their village; in Orissa, 40.2 per cent chose first curative contact with NDAPs and 36.2 per cent with traditional healers. In AP, all NDAPs were private practitioners, in Orissa some pharmacists and nurses employed in health facilities, also practiced privately. Respondents explained their choice by proximity and providers’ readiness to make house-calls when needed. Less than a quarter of respondents chose qualified doctors as their first point of call: mostly private practitioners in AP, and public practitioners in Orissa. Amongst those who chose a qualified practitioner, the most frequent reason was doctors’ quality rather than proximity.
Interpretation & conclusions:
The results of this study show that most rural persons seek first level of curative healthcare close to home, and pay for a composite convenient service of consulting-cum-dispensing of medicines. NDAPs fill a huge demand for primary curative care which the public system does not satisfy, and are the de facto first level access in most cases.
PMCID: PMC3249960  PMID: 22199101
First healthcare contact; health seeking; informal; non-degree allopathic providers; primary curative healthcare; rural; traditional healers
14.  Why Are Health Care Interventions Delivered Over the Internet? A Systematic Review of the Published Literature 
As Internet use grows, health interventions are increasingly being delivered online. Pioneering researchers are using the networking potential of the Internet, and several of them have evaluated these interventions.
The objective was to review the reasons why health interventions have been delivered on the Internet and to reflect on the work of the pioneers in this field in order to inform future research.
We conducted a qualitative systematic review of peer-reviewed evaluations of health interventions delivered to a known client/patient group using networked features of the Internet. Papers were reviewed for the reasons given for using the Internet, and these reasons were categorized.
We included studies evaluating 28 interventions plus 9 interventions that were evaluated in pilot studies. The interventions were aimed at a range of health conditions. Reasons for Internet delivery included low cost and resource implications due to the nature of the technology; reducing cost and increasing convenience for users; reduction of health service costs; overcoming isolation of users; the need for timely information; stigma reduction; and increased user and supplier control of the intervention. A small number of studies gave the existence of Internet interventions as the only reason for undertaking an evaluation of this mode of delivery.
One must remain alert for the unintended effects of Internet delivery of health interventions due to the potential for reinforcing the problems that the intervention was designed to help. Internet delivery overcomes isolation of time, mobility, and geography, but it may not be a substitute for face-to-face contact. Future evaluations need to incorporate the evaluation of cost, not only to the health service but also to users and their social networks. When researchers report the outcomes of Internet-delivered health care interventions, it is important that they clearly state why they chose to use the Internet, preferably backing up their decision with theoretical models and exploratory work. Evaluation of the effectiveness of a health care intervention delivered by the Internet needs to include comparison with more traditional modes of delivery to answer the following question: What are the added benefits or disadvantages of Internet use that are particular to this mode of delivery?
PMCID: PMC1550698  PMID: 16867965
Internet; intervention studies; literature review
15.  Attachment in the doctor–patient relationship in general practice: A qualitative study 
To explore why interpersonal continuity with a regular doctor is valuable to patients.
Design, setting, and subjects
A qualitative study based on 22 interviews with patients, 12 who saw their regular general practitioner (GP) and 10 who saw an unfamiliar GP. The patients were selected after an observed consultation and sampled purposively according to reason for encounter, age, and sex. The research question was answered by means of psychological theory.
A need for attachment was a central issue for the understanding of the value of interpersonal continuity for patients. The patients explained that they preferred to create a personal relationship with their GP and the majority expressed a degree of vulnerability in the doctor–patient relationship. The more sick or worried they were the more vulnerable and the more in need of a regular GP. Furthermore, patients stated that it was difficult for them to change GP even if they had a poor relationship.
Attachment theory may provide an explanation for patients' need to see a regular GP. The vulnerability of being a patient creates a need for attachment to a caregiver. This need is fundamental and is activated in adults when they are sick or scared.
PMCID: PMC3442335  PMID: 20642396
Attachment; doctor–patient relationship; family practice; interpersonal continuity; qualitative study
16.  Having a family doctor was associated with lower utilization of hospital-based health services 
Primary care in the United States and most countries in Asia are provided by a variety of doctors. However, effectiveness of such diversified primary care in gate-keeping secondary medical services is unknown. This study aimed to evaluate health services utilization rates of hospital emergency and admission services among people who used different primary care doctors in Hong Kong.
This study was a population-based cross-sectional telephone survey using structured questionnaire on health services utilization rates and pattern in Hong Kong in 2007 to 2008. Information on the choice of primary care doctors, utilization rates and patterns of primary care service were collected. Poisson and logistic regression analyses were used to explore any differences in service utilization rates and patterns among people using different types of primary care doctors.
Out of 3148 subjects who completed the survey, 1896 (60.2%) had regular primary care doctors, of whom 1150 (60.7%) regarded their regular doctors as their family doctors (RFD). 1157 (36.8%) of them did not use any regular doctors (NRD). Only 4.3% of the RFD group (vs 7.8% of other regular doctors (ORD) and 9.6% of NRD) visited emergency service and only 1.7% (vs 3.6% of ORD and 4.0% of NRD) were admitted to hospital for their last episode of illness. Regression analyses controlling for sociodemographics and health status confirmed that respondents having RFD were less likely to use emergency service than people who had NRD (OR 0.479) or ORD (OR 0.624) or being admitted to hospital (OR 0.458 vs NRD and 0.514 vs ORD) for their last episode of illness.
Primary care is the most effective in gate-keeping secondary care among people with regular family doctors. People without any regular primary care doctor were more likely to use emergency service as primary care. The findings supported a family doctor-led primary care model.
Trial registration number ID: NCT01422031.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12913-015-0705-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4312460  PMID: 25627936
Family doctor; Health utilization; Hospitalization; Emergency services; Chinese; Count data
17.  How Well Do Doctors Know their Patients? Factors Affecting Physician Understanding of Patients’ Health Beliefs 
An important feature of patient-centered care is physician understanding of their patients’ health beliefs and values.
Determine physicians’ awareness of patients’ health beliefs as well as communication, relationship, and demographic factors associated with better physician understanding of patients’ illness perspectives.
Cross-sectional, observational study.
A convenience sample of 207 patients and 29 primary care physicians from 10 outpatient clinics.
After their consultation, patients and physicians independently completed the CONNECT instrument, a measure that assesses beliefs about the degree to which the patient’s condition has a biological cause, is the patient’s fault, is one the patient can control, has meaning for the patient, can be treated with natural remedies, and patient preferences for a partnership with the physician. Physicians completed the measure again on how they thought the patient responded. Active patient participation (frequency of questions, concerns, acts of assertiveness) was coded from audio-recordings of the consultations. Physicians’ answers for how they thought the patient responded to the health belief measure were compared to their patients’ actual responses. Degree of physician understanding of patients’ health beliefs was computed as the absolute difference between patients’ health beliefs and physicians’ perception of patients’ health beliefs.
Physicians’ perceptions of their patients’ health beliefs differed significantly (P < 0.001) from patients’ actual beliefs. Physicians also thought patients’ beliefs were more aligned with their own. Physicians had a better understanding of the degree to which patients believed their health conditions had personal meaning (p = 0.001), would benefit from natural remedies (p = 0.049), were conditions the patient could control (p = 0.001), and wanted a partnership with the doctor (p = 0.014) when patients more often asked questions, expressed concerns, and stated their opinions. Physicians were poorer judges of patients’ beliefs when patients were African-American (desire for partnership) (p = 0.013), Hispanic (meaning) (p = 0.075), or of a different race (sense of control) (p = 0.024).
Physicians were not good judges of patient’s health beliefs, but had a substantially better understanding when patients more actively participated in the consultation. Strategies for increasing physicians’ awareness of patients’ health beliefs include preconsultation assessment of patients’ beliefs, implementing culturally appropriate patient activation programs, and greater use of partnership-building to encourage active patient participation.
PMCID: PMC3024116  PMID: 20652759
physician-patient relationship; racial concordance; patient-centered communication; patient participation; disparities
18.  Training community resource center and clinic personnel to prompt patients in listing questions for doctors: Follow-up interviews about barriers and facilitators to the implementation of consultation planning 
Visit preparation interventions help patients prepare to meet with a medical provider. Systematic reviews have found some positive effects, but there are no reports describing implementation experiences. Consultation Planning (CP) is a visit preparation technique in which a trained coach or facilitator elicits and documents patient questions for an upcoming medical appointment. We integrated CP into a university breast cancer clinic beginning in 1998. Representatives of other organizations expressed interest in CP, so we invited them to training workshops in 2000, 2001, and 2002.
In order to learn from experience and generate hypotheses, we asked: 1) How many trainees implemented CP? 2) What facilitated implementation? 3) How have trainees, patients, physicians, and administrative leaders of implementing organizations reacted to CP? 4) What were the barriers to implementation?
We attempted to contact 32 trainees and scheduled follow-up, semi-structured, audio-recorded telephone interviews with 18. We analyzed quantitative data by tabulating frequencies and qualitative data by coding transcripts and identifying themes.
Trainees came from two different types of organizations, clinics (which provide medical care) versus resource centers (which provide patient support services but not medical care). We found that: 1) Fourteen of 21 respondents, from five of eight resource centers, implemented CP. Four of the five implementing resource centers were rural. 2) Implementers identified the championing of CP by an internal staff member as a critical success factor. 3) Implementers reported that modified CP has been productive. 4) Four respondents, from two resource centers and two clinics, did not implement CP, reporting resource limitations or conflicting priorities as the critical barriers.
CP training workshops have been associated with subsequent CP implementations at resource centers but not clinics. We hypothesize that CP workshops combined with an internal champion and adequate program resources may be sufficient for some patient support organizations to implement CP.
PMCID: PMC2270865  PMID: 18237380
19.  Physicians' Motives for Professional Internet Use and Differences in Attitudes Toward the Internet-Informed Patient, Physician–Patient Communication, and Prescribing Behavior 
Medicine 2.0  2012;1(2):e2.
Physicians have differing motives for using the Internet and Internet-related services in their professional work. These motives may affect their evaluation of patients who bring with them health-related information from the Internet. Differing motives may also affect physician–patient communication and subsequent prescribing behavior.
To segment physicians into types based on their motives for using the Internet in connection with professional activities and to analyze how those segments differ in their attitudes in three areas: toward patients who bring along Internet-sourced information; in their own subsequent prescribing behavior; and in their attitudes toward using the Internet to communicate with patients in future.
We surveyed 287 German physicians online from three medical fields. To assess physicians’ motives for using the Internet for their professional activities, we asked them to rate their level of agreement with statements on a 7-point scale. Motive statements were reduced to motive dimensions using principal component analysis, and 2-step cluster analysis based on motive dimensions identified different segments of physicians. Several statements assessed agreement or disagreement on a 7-point scale physicians’ attitudes toward patients’ bringing Internet information to the consultation and their own subsequent prescribing behavior. Further, we asked physicians to indicate on a 7-point scale their valuation of the Internet for physician–patient communication in the future. Data were then subjected to variance and contingency analyses.
We identified three motive dimensions for Internet use: (1) being on the cutting edge and for self-expression (Cronbach alpha = .88), (2) efficiency and effectiveness (alpha = .79), and (3) diversity and convenience (alpha = .71). These three factors accounted for 71.4% of the variance. Based on physicians’ motives for using the Internet, four types of physician Internet user were identified: (1) the Internet Advocate (2), Efficiency-Oriented, (3) Internet Critic, and (4) Driven Self-expressionist. Groups differed significantly concerning (1) their attitude toward informed patients in general (F 1234 = 9.215, P < .001), (2) perceived improvement in the physician–patient relationship Internet information brings (F 1234 = 5.386, P < .001), (3) perceived accuracy of information the patient brings (F 1234 = 3.658, P = .01), and (4) perceived amount of time needed to devote to an Internet-informed patient (F 1234 = 3.356, P = .02). Physician segments did not differ significantly in reported prescribing behavior (F 1234 = 1.910, P = .13). However, attitudes toward using the Internet to communicate with patients in future differed significantly (F 1234 = 23.242, P < .001).
Based on self-reporting by German physicians of their motives for professional Internet use, we identified four types of Internet users who differ significantly in their attitude toward patients who bring along Internet information and their attitudes toward using the Internet to communicate with patients in future.
PMCID: PMC4084769  PMID: 25075230
Physician; Internet use; attitude; Internet-informed patient; communication; prescribing behavior; physician-patient relationship; motivation research
20.  GP recruitment and retention: a qualitative analysis of doctors' comments about training for and working in general practice. 
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: General practice in the UK is experiencing difficulty with medical staff recruitment and retention, with reduced numbers choosing careers in general practice or entering principalships, and increases in less-than-full-time working, career breaks, early retirement and locum employment. Information is scarce about the reasons for these changes and factors that could increase recruitment and retention. The UK Medical Careers Research Group (UKMCRG) regularly surveys cohorts of UK medical graduates to determine their career choices and progression. We also invite written comments from respondents about their careers and the factors that influence them. Most respondents report high levels of job satisfaction. A noteworthy minority, however, make critical comments about general practice. Although their views may not represent those of all general practitioners (GPs), they nonetheless indicate a range of concerns that deserve to be understood. This paper reports on respondents' comments about general practice. ANALYSIS OF DOCTORS' COMMENTS: Training Greater exposure to general practice at undergraduate level could help to promote general practice careers and better inform career decisions. Postgraduate general practice training in hospital-based posts was seen as poor quality, irrelevant and run as if it were of secondary importance to service commitments. In contrast, general practice-based postgraduate training was widely praised for good formal teaching that met educational needs. The quality of vocational training was dependent upon the skills and enthusiasm of individual trainers. Recruitment problems Perceived deterrents to choosing general practice were its portrayal, by some hospital-based teachers, as a second class career compared to hospital medicine, and a perception of low morale amongst current GPs. The choice of a career in general practice was commonly made for lifestyle reasons rather than professional aspirations. Some GPs had encountered difficulties in obtaining posts in general practice suited to their needs, while others perceived discrimination. Newly qualified GPs often sought work as non-principals because they felt too inexperienced for partnership or because their domestic situation prevented them from settling in a particular area. Changes to general practice The 1990 National Health Service (NHS) reforms were largely viewed unfavourably, partly because they had led to a substantial increase in GPs' workloads that was compounded by growing public expectations, and partly because the two-tier system of fund-holding was considered unfair. Fund-holding and, more recently, GP commissioning threatened the GP's role as patient advocate by shifting the responsibility for rationing of health care from government to GPs. Some concerns were also expressed about the introduction of primary care groups (PCGs) and trusts (PCTs). Together, increased workload and the continual process of change had, for some, resulted in work-related stress, low morale, reduced job satisfaction and quality of life. These problems had been partially alleviated by the formation of GP co-operatives. Retention difficulties Loss of GPs' time from the NHS workforce occurs in four ways: reduced working hours, temporary career breaks, leaving the NHS to work elsewhere and early retirement. Child rearing and a desire to pursue interests outside medicine were cited as reasons for seeking shorter working hours or career breaks. A desire to reduce pressure of work was a common reason for seeking shorter working hours, taking career breaks, early retirement or leaving NHS general practice. Other reasons for leaving NHS general practice, temporarily or permanently, were difficulty in finding a GP post suited to individual needs and a desire to work abroad. CONCLUSIONS: A cultural change amongst medical educationalists is needed to promote general practice as a career choice that is equally attractive as hospital practice. The introduction of Pre-Registration House Officer (PRHO) placements in general practice and improved flexibility of GP vocational training schemes, together with plans to improve the quality of Senior House Officer (SHO) training in the future, are welcome developments and should address some of the concerns about poor quality GP training raised by our respondents. The reluctance of newly qualified GPs to enter principalships, and the increasing demand from experienced GPs for less-than-full-time work, indicates a need for a greater variety of contractual arrangements to reflect doctors' desires for more flexible patterns of working in general practice.
PMCID: PMC2560447  PMID: 12049026
21.  Swiss Community Pharmacies' on the Web and Pharmacists' Experiences with E-commerce: Longitudinal study and Internet-based questionnaire survey 
There are multiple ways in which community pharmacies can present themselves on the Internet, e.g., as a platform for drug information or as an advertising platform for their services.
To estimate the number of Swiss community pharmacies on the Internet over the period of 32 months (2000-2003), to describe their current e-commerce services, and to explore the experiences and plans these pharmacies have with regard to their Internet presence.
A longitudinal study was performed to determine the number of Swiss German pharmacies on the Internet by conducting Internet searches in 2000, 2001, and 2003. In April 2002, a cross-sectional Internet-based survey was administered to explore the pharmacies' experiences and plans regarding their Web sites.
As of April 2003, 373 (44%) of 852 community pharmacies from the German speaking part of Switzerland were on the Internet. One hundred eighty four listed an e-mail address and were asked to complete a questionnaire. Of the 107 pharmacies answering the survey questions (58% response rate): 46% had been on the Internet for 1 to 2 years; 33% of the Web sites are part of a pharmacy group's Web portal; 31% of the pharmacies plan to expand their Internet appearance in the future; 74% provide e-commerce services, with 81% of those pharmacies filling five or less orders per month; and 12% plan on expanding their e-commerce services in the future.
The number of community pharmacies offering Internet services steadily increased over 32 months. Given the importance of the Internet as a tool for information, communication, and advertising for pharmacy products and services, it can be expected that the increase will continue. Pharmacy-group portals are important promoters of pharmacies on the Internet. For many community pharmacies, Internet portals that provide an Internet presence for the pharmacies and provide regularly-updated content (e.g., health news, tips, drug information) seem to be the most effective solutions. Even though 40% of the pharmacies already offer e-commerce services, these services are still of minor importance. For many pharmacists, the current legal regulations seem to be unclear. Most pharmacies want to maintain their Internet services.
PMCID: PMC1550588  PMID: 15111275
Web site; community pharmacies; professional-patient relations; quality of health care; e-commerce; e-pharmacies; Switzerland
22.  The Effect of Alternative Graphical Displays Used to Present the Benefits of Antibiotics for Sore Throat on Decisions about Whether to Seek Treatment: A Randomized Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2009;6(8):e1000140.
In a randomized trial, Cheryl Carling and colleagues evaluate how people respond to different statistical presentations regarding the consequences of taking antibiotic treatment for sore throat.
We conducted an Internet-based randomized trial comparing four graphical displays of the benefits of antibiotics for people with sore throat who must decide whether to go to the doctor to seek treatment. Our objective was to determine which display resulted in choices most consistent with participants' values.
Methods and Findings
This was the first of a series of televised trials undertaken in cooperation with the Norwegian Broadcasting Company. We recruited adult volunteers in Norway through a nationally televised weekly health program. Participants went to our Web site and rated the relative importance of the consequences of treatment using visual analogue scales (VAS). They viewed the graphical display (or no information) to which they were randomized and were asked to decide whether to go to the doctor for an antibiotic prescription. We compared four presentations: face icons (happy/sad) or a bar graph showing the proportion of people with symptoms on day three with and without treatment, a bar graph of the average duration of symptoms, and a bar graph of proportion with symptoms on both days three and seven. Before completing the study, all participants were shown all the displays and detailed patient information about the treatment of sore throat and were asked to decide again. We calculated a relative importance score (RIS) by subtracting the VAS scores for the undesirable consequences of antibiotics from the VAS score for the benefit of symptom relief. We used logistic regression to determine the association between participants' RIS and their choice. 1,760 participants completed the study. There were statistically significant differences in the likelihood of choosing to go to the doctor in relation to different values (RIS). Of the four presentations, the bar graph of duration of symptoms resulted in decisions that were most consistent with the more fully informed second decision. Most participants also preferred this presentation (38%) and found it easiest to understand (37%). Participants shown the other three presentations were more likely to decide to go to the doctor based on their first decision than everyone based on the second decision. Participants preferred the graph using faces the least (14.4%).
For decisions about going to the doctor to get antibiotics for sore throat, treatment effects presented by a bar graph showing the duration of symptoms helped people make decisions more consistent with their values than treatment effects presented as graphical displays of proportions of people with sore throat following treatment.
Clinical Trials Registration
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
In the past, patients usually believed that their doctor knew what was best for them and that they had little say in deciding what treatment they would receive. But many modern interventions have complex trade-offs. Patients' opinions about the relative desirability of the possible outcomes of health care interventions depend on their lifestyle and expectations, and these “values” need to be considered when making decisions about medical treatments. Consequently, shared decision-making is increasingly superseding the traditional, paternalistic approach to medical decision-making. In shared decision-making, health care professionals talk to their patients about the risks and benefits of the various treatment options, and patients tell the health care professionals what they expect and/or require from their treatment.
Why Was This Study Done?
Shared decision-making can only succeed if patients know about the treatment options that are available for their medical condition and understand the consequences of each option. But how does the presentation of information about treatment options to patients affect their decisions? In 2002, a series of internet-based randomized trials (studies in which participants are randomly allocated to different “treatment” groups) called the Health Information Project: Presentation Online (HIPPO) was initiated to answer this question. Here, the researchers describe HIPPO 3, a trial that investigates how alternative graphical displays of the benefits of antibiotics for the treatment of sore throat affect whether people decide to seek treatment. In particular, the researchers ask which display results in people making a treatment decision most consistent with their values, i.e., in terms of the relative importance to them of the treatment's desirable and undesirable outcomes.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Adult Norwegians recruited through a television health program numerically rated the importance of symptom relief and of several negative consequences (for example, side effects) of antibiotic treatment for sore throat on the trial's Web site. Relative importance scores (which indicate the participants' values) were calculated for each participant by subtracting their ratings for the importance of the negative consequences of seeking antibiotic treatment from his or her rating for the importance of symptom relief. The participants were then asked to decide whether to visit a doctor for antibiotics without receiving any further information or after being shown one of four graphical displays illustrating the benefits of antibiotic treatment. Two bar charts and one display of happy- and sad-face icons showed the proportion of people with symptoms at specific times after sore throat onset with and without treatment. A third bar chart indicated symptom duration with and without antibiotics. Finally, all the participants were shown all the displays and other information about sore throat and were asked to decide again about seeking treatment. The researchers found a clear association between the participants' values and the likelihood of their deciding to go to the doctor, and this likelihood depended on which graphical display the participants saw. People shown information on the proportion of patients with symptoms were more likely to decide to visit a doctor than those shown information on symptom duration. Furthermore, first decisions reached after being given information on symptom duration or no information were more consistent with the fully informed second decision than first decisions reached after seeing the other displays.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, for people considering whether to seek antibiotic treatment for sore throat, a bar graph showing the duration of symptoms is more likely to help them make a decision that is consistent with their own values than a bar chart showing the proportions of people with sore throat following treatment. The researchers also found that the bar chart showing symptom duration was preferred by more of the participants than any of the other representations. Whether these results can be applied to other health care decisions or in other settings is not known. However, the researchers suggest that these findings may be most relevant to treatments that, like antibiotic treatment of sore throat, have a short-lived benefit and relatively important downsides.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A PLoS Medicine Editorial discusses this trial and the results of another HIPPO trial that are presented in a separate PLoS Medicine Research Article by Carling et al.; details of a pilot HIPPO trial are also available
The Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making (a US-based nonprofit organization) provides information on many aspects of medical decision making
The Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center provides information to help people make health care decisions through its Center for Shared Decision Making
The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute provides information on patient decision aids, including an inventory of decision aids available on the Web (in English and French)
MedlinePlus provides links to information and advice about sore throat (in English and Spanish)
PMCID: PMC2726763  PMID: 19707579
23.  Concerns over confidentiality may deter adolescents from consulting their doctors. A qualitative exploration 
Journal of Medical Ethics  2006;32(3):133-137.
Young people who are concerned that consultations may not remain confidential are reluctant to consult their doctors, especially about sensitive issues. This study sought to identify issues and concerns of adolescents, and their parents, in relation to confidentiality and teenagers' personal health information.
Recruitment was conducted in paediatric dermatology and general surgery outpatient clinics, and on general surgery paediatric wards. Interviews were conducted in subjects' own homes.
Semistructured interviews were used for this exploratory qualitative study. Interviews were carried out with 11 young women and nine young men aged 14–17. Parents of 18 of the young people were interviewed separately. Transcripts of tape recorded interviews provided the basis for a framework analysis.
Young women were more concerned than young men, and older teenagers more concerned than younger teenagers, about people other than their general practitioner (GP) having access to their health information. Young people with little experience of the healthcare system were less happy than those with greater knowledge of the National Health Service (NHS) for non‐medical staff to access their health information. As they grow older, adolescents become increasingly concerned that their health information should remain confidential.
Young people's willingness to be open in consultations could be enhanced by doctors taking time to explain to them that their discussion is completely confidential. Alternatively, if for any reason confidentiality cannot be assured, doctors should explain why.
PMCID: PMC2564464  PMID: 16507655
confidentiality; medical records; young people; rights of children; parental view
24.  Toward a greater understanding of breast cancer patients’ decisions to discuss cancer related internet information with their doctors: An exploratory study 
Patient education and counseling  2012;89(1):109-115.
To investigate differences between breast cancer patients who do and do not discuss cancer-related internet information (CRII) with their doctors.
70 breast cancer patients completed questionnaires regarding internet use, discussions about CRII, and the doctor-patient relationship.
No significant differences were noted across patient, disease, or visit characteristics, or physician reliance between those who intended to discuss CRII and those who did not. Patients who intended to discuss CRII rated significantly higher pre-consultation anxiety levels. No significant differences in satisfaction, anxiety reduction, or trust in physician were found between patients who had discussed and those who had not. Patients’ reasons for discussing or not discussing are detailed.
Factors influencing patients’ decisions to discuss CRII are complex and differ from those identified as leading patients to seek internet information. Future research about internet discussions should investigate the impact of patients’ preferred role in treatment, the doctor-patient relationship, anxiety level, attributes of CRII, and physician trust.
Practice Implications
Understanding the characteristics of patients who do and do not discuss internet information is important given the impact internet information has on healthcare communication and the doctor-patient relationship, including the development of interventions aimed at improving such interactions.
PMCID: PMC3462296  PMID: 22722063
internet; doctor-patient communication; breast cancer
25.  Influencing sceptical staff to become supporters of service improvement: a qualitative study of doctors' and managers' views 
Quality & safety in health care  2004;13(2):108-114.
Objective: To explore scepticism and resistance towards changes in working practice designed to achieve service improvement. Two principal questions were studied: (1) why some people are sceptical or resistant towards improvement programmes and (2) what influences them to change their minds.
Methods: Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 19 clinicians and 19 managers who held national and regional roles in two national programmes of service improvement within the NHS involving systematic organisational changes in working practices: the National Booking Programme and the Cancer Services Collaborative (now the Cancer Services Collaborative Improvement Partnership).
Results: Scepticism and resistance exist in all staff groups, especially among medical staff. Reasons include personal reluctance to change, misunderstanding of the aims of improvement programmes, and a dislike of the methods by which programmes have been promoted. Sceptical staff can be influenced to become involved in improvement, but this usually takes time. Newly won support may be fragile, requiring ongoing evidence of benefits to be maintained.
Conclusions: The support of health service staff, particularly doctors, is crucial to the spread and sustainability of the modernisation agenda. Scepticism and resistance are seen to hamper progress. Leaders of improvement initiatives need to recognise the impact of scepticism and resistance, and to consider ways in which staff can become positively engaged in change.
PMCID: PMC1743804  PMID: 15069217

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