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1.  Internet Use among Ugandan Adolescents: Implications for HIV Intervention 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(11):e433.
Background
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.
Conclusions
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
Background.
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 http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030433
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
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030433
PMCID: PMC1630714  PMID: 17090211
2.  Awareness and Use of Evidence-based Medicine Databases and Cochrane Library Among Physicians in Croatia 
Croatian Medical Journal  2010;51(2):157-164.
Aim
To assess awareness and use of evidence-based medicine (EBM) databases and The Cochrane Library among physicians in Croatia.
Methods
A cross-sectional study with a telephone survey was performed among 573 physicians (88.6% response rate from 647 contacted physicians) from family practice and 4 major university hospital centers in Croatia. The main outcome measures were physicians' awareness of The Cochrane Collaboration, awareness and use of The Cochrane Library, access to EBM databases, and access to internet at work.
Results
Overall, 54% of respondents said they had access to EBM databases, but when asked which databases they used, they named mostly non-EBM databases. The question on the highest level of evidence in EBM was correctly answered by 53% respondents, 30% heard of The Cochrane Collaboration, and 34% heard about The Cochrane Library. They obtained information about The Cochrane Library mostly from colleagues and research articles, whereas the information about EBM was gained mainly during continuous medical education. There were more respondents who thought The Cochrane Library could help them in practice (58%) than those who heard about The Cochrane Library (30%). Only 20% of the respondents heard about the initiative for the establishment of the Croatian branch of The Cochrane Collaboration. Family physicians had significantly lower level of awareness, knowledge, and use of EBM and The Cochrane Library than physicians from university hospitals.
Conclusion
There is low awareness about EBM and The Cochrane Library among physicians in Croatia, which creates a need for educational interventions about EBM for the benefit of health care in Croatia.
doi:10.3325/cmj.2010.51.157
PMCID: PMC2859421  PMID: 20401959
3.  Access to electronic health knowledge in five countries in Africa: a descriptive study 
Background
Access to medical literature in developing countries is helped by open access publishing and initiatives to allow free access to subscription only journals. The effectiveness of these initiatives in Africa has not been assessed. This study describes awareness, reported use and factors influencing use of on-line medical literature via free access initiatives.
Methods
Descriptive study in four teaching hospitals in Cameroon, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda plus one externally funded research institution in The Gambia. Survey with postgraduate doctors and research scientists to determine Internet access patterns, reported awareness of on-line medical information and free access initiatives; semi structured interviews with a sub-sample of survey participants to explore factors influencing use.
Results
In the four African teaching hospitals, 70% of the 305 postgraduate doctors reported textbooks as their main source of information; 66% had used the Internet for health information in the last week. In two hospitals, Internet cafés were the main Internet access point. For researchers at the externally-funded research institution, electronic resources were their main source, and almost all had used the Internet in the last week. Across all 333 respondents, 90% had heard of PubMed, 78% of BMJ on line, 49% the Cochrane Library, 47% HINARI, and 19% BioMedCentral. HINARI use correlates with accessing the Internet on computers located in institutions. Qualitative data suggested there are difficulties logging into HINARI and that sometimes it is librarians that limit access to passwords.
Conclusion
Text books remain an important resource for postgraduate doctors in training. Internet use is common, but awareness of free-access initiatives is limited. HINARI and other initiatives could be more effective with strong institutional endorsement and management to promote and ensure access.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-7-72
PMCID: PMC1885254  PMID: 17509132
4.  Internet-Based Device-Assisted Remote Monitoring of Cardiovascular Implantable Electronic Devices 
Executive Summary
Objective
The objective of this Medical Advisory Secretariat (MAS) report was to conduct a systematic review of the available published evidence on the safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of Internet-based device-assisted remote monitoring systems (RMSs) for therapeutic cardiac implantable electronic devices (CIEDs) such as pacemakers (PMs), implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. The MAS evidence-based review was performed to support public financing decisions.
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a major cause of fatalities in developed countries. In the United States almost half a million people die of SCD annually, resulting in more deaths than stroke, lung cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined. In Canada each year more than 40,000 people die from a cardiovascular related cause; approximately half of these deaths are attributable to SCD.
Most cases of SCD occur in the general population typically in those without a known history of heart disease. Most SCDs are caused by cardiac arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm caused by malfunctions of the heart’s electrical system. Up to half of patients with significant heart failure (HF) also have advanced conduction abnormalities.
Cardiac arrhythmias are managed by a variety of drugs, ablative procedures, and therapeutic CIEDs. The range of CIEDs includes pacemakers (PMs), implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs), and cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) devices. Bradycardia is the main indication for PMs and individuals at high risk for SCD are often treated by ICDs.
Heart failure (HF) is also a significant health problem and is the most frequent cause of hospitalization in those over 65 years of age. Patients with moderate to severe HF may also have cardiac arrhythmias, although the cause may be related more to heart pump or haemodynamic failure. The presence of HF, however, increases the risk of SCD five-fold, regardless of aetiology. Patients with HF who remain highly symptomatic despite optimal drug therapy are sometimes also treated with CRT devices.
With an increasing prevalence of age-related conditions such as chronic HF and the expanding indications for ICD therapy, the rate of ICD placement has been dramatically increasing. The appropriate indications for ICD placement, as well as the rate of ICD placement, are increasingly an issue. In the United States, after the introduction of expanded coverage of ICDs, a national ICD registry was created in 2005 to track these devices. A recent survey based on this national ICD registry reported that 22.5% (25,145) of patients had received a non-evidence based ICD and that these patients experienced significantly higher in-hospital mortality and post-procedural complications.
In addition to the increased ICD device placement and the upfront device costs, there is the need for lifelong follow-up or surveillance, placing a significant burden on patients and device clinics. In 2007, over 1.6 million CIEDs were implanted in Europe and the United States, which translates to over 5.5 million patient encounters per year if the recommended follow-up practices are considered. A safe and effective RMS could potentially improve the efficiency of long-term follow-up of patients and their CIEDs.
Technology
In addition to being therapeutic devices, CIEDs have extensive diagnostic abilities. All CIEDs can be interrogated and reprogrammed during an in-clinic visit using an inductive programming wand. Remote monitoring would allow patients to transmit information recorded in their devices from the comfort of their own homes. Currently most ICD devices also have the potential to be remotely monitored. Remote monitoring (RM) can be used to check system integrity, to alert on arrhythmic episodes, and to potentially replace in-clinic follow-ups and manage disease remotely. They do not currently have the capability of being reprogrammed remotely, although this feature is being tested in pilot settings.
Every RMS is specifically designed by a manufacturer for their cardiac implant devices. For Internet-based device-assisted RMSs, this customization includes details such as web application, multiplatform sensors, custom algorithms, programming information, and types and methods of alerting patients and/or physicians. The addition of peripherals for monitoring weight and pressure or communicating with patients through the onsite communicators also varies by manufacturer. Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs are intended to function as a surveillance system rather than an emergency system.
Health care providers therefore need to learn each application, and as more than one application may be used at one site, multiple applications may need to be reviewed for alarms. All RMSs deliver system integrity alerting; however, some systems seem to be better geared to fast arrhythmic alerting, whereas other systems appear to be more intended for remote follow-up or supplemental remote disease management. The different RMSs may therefore have different impacts on workflow organization because of their varying frequency of interrogation and methods of alerts. The integration of these proprietary RM web-based registry systems with hospital-based electronic health record systems has so far not been commonly implemented.
Currently there are 2 general types of RMSs: those that transmit device diagnostic information automatically and without patient assistance to secure Internet-based registry systems, and those that require patient assistance to transmit information. Both systems employ the use of preprogrammed alerts that are either transmitted automatically or at regular scheduled intervals to patients and/or physicians.
The current web applications, programming, and registry systems differ greatly between the manufacturers of transmitting cardiac devices. In Canada there are currently 4 manufacturers—Medtronic Inc., Biotronik, Boston Scientific Corp., and St Jude Medical Inc.—which have regulatory approval for remote transmitting CIEDs. Remote monitoring systems are proprietary to the manufacturer of the implant device. An RMS for one device will not work with another device, and the RMS may not work with all versions of the manufacturer’s devices.
All Internet-based device-assisted RMSs have common components. The implanted device is equipped with a micro-antenna that communicates with a small external device (at bedside or wearable) commonly known as the transmitter. Transmitters are able to interrogate programmed parameters and diagnostic data stored in the patients’ implant device. The information transfer to the communicator can occur at preset time intervals with the participation of the patient (waving a wand over the device) or it can be sent automatically (wirelessly) without their participation. The encrypted data are then uploaded to an Internet-based database on a secure central server. The data processing facilities at the central database, depending on the clinical urgency, can trigger an alert for the physician(s) that can be sent via email, fax, text message, or phone. The details are also posted on the secure website for viewing by the physician (or their delegate) at their convenience.
Research Questions
The research directions and specific research questions for this evidence review were as follows:
To identify the Internet-based device-assisted RMSs available for follow-up of patients with therapeutic CIEDs such as PMs, ICDs, and CRT devices.
To identify the potential risks, operational issues, or organizational issues related to Internet-based device-assisted RM for CIEDs.
To evaluate the safety, acceptability, and effectiveness of Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs such as PMs, ICDs, and CRT devices.
To evaluate the safety, effectiveness, and cost-effectiveness of Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs compared to usual outpatient in-office monitoring strategies.
To evaluate the resource implications or budget impact of RMSs for CIEDs in Ontario, Canada.
Research Methods
Literature Search
The review included a systematic review of published scientific literature and consultations with experts and manufacturers of all 4 approved RMSs for CIEDs in Canada. Information on CIED cardiac implant clinics was also obtained from Provincial Programs, a division within the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care with a mandate for cardiac implant specialty care. Various administrative databases and registries were used to outline the current clinical follow-up burden of CIEDs in Ontario. The provincial population-based ICD database developed and maintained by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) was used to review the current follow-up practices with Ontario patients implanted with ICD devices.
Search Strategy
A literature search was performed on September 21, 2010 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from 1950 to September 2010. Search alerts were generated and reviewed for additional relevant literature until December 31, 2010. Abstracts were reviewed by a single reviewer and, for those studies meeting the eligibility criteria full-text articles were obtained. Reference lists were also examined for any additional relevant studies not identified through the search.
Inclusion Criteria
published between 1950 and September 2010;
English language full-reports and human studies;
original reports including clinical evaluations of Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs in clinical settings;
reports including standardized measurements on outcome events such as technical success, safety, effectiveness, cost, measures of health care utilization, morbidity, mortality, quality of life or patient satisfaction;
randomized controlled trials (RCTs), systematic reviews and meta-analyses, cohort and controlled clinical studies.
Exclusion Criteria
non-systematic reviews, letters, comments and editorials;
reports not involving standardized outcome events;
clinical reports not involving Internet-based device assisted RM systems for CIEDs in clinical settings;
reports involving studies testing or validating algorithms without RM;
studies with small samples (<10 subjects).
Outcomes of Interest
The outcomes of interest included: technical outcomes, emergency department visits, complications, major adverse events, symptoms, hospital admissions, clinic visits (scheduled and/or unscheduled), survival, morbidity (disease progression, stroke, etc.), patient satisfaction, and quality of life.
Summary of Findings
The MAS evidence review was performed to review available evidence on Internet-based device-assisted RMSs for CIEDs published until September 2010. The search identified 6 systematic reviews, 7 randomized controlled trials, and 19 reports for 16 cohort studies—3 of these being registry-based and 4 being multi-centered. The evidence is summarized in the 3 sections that follow.
1. Effectiveness of Remote Monitoring Systems of CIEDs for Cardiac Arrhythmia and Device Functioning
In total, 15 reports on 13 cohort studies involving investigations with 4 different RMSs for CIEDs in cardiology implant clinic groups were identified in the review. The 4 RMSs were: Care Link Network® (Medtronic Inc,, Minneapolis, MN, USA); Home Monitoring® (Biotronic, Berlin, Germany); House Call 11® (St Jude Medical Inc., St Pauls, MN, USA); and a manufacturer-independent RMS. Eight of these reports were with the Home Monitoring® RMS (12,949 patients), 3 were with the Care Link® RMS (167 patients), 1 was with the House Call 11® RMS (124 patients), and 1 was with a manufacturer-independent RMS (44 patients). All of the studies, except for 2 in the United States, (1 with Home Monitoring® and 1 with House Call 11®), were performed in European countries.
The RMSs in the studies were evaluated with different cardiac implant device populations: ICDs only (6 studies), ICD and CRT devices (3 studies), PM and ICD and CRT devices (4 studies), and PMs only (2 studies). The patient populations were predominately male (range, 52%–87%) in all studies, with mean ages ranging from 58 to 76 years. One study population was unique in that RMSs were evaluated for ICDs implanted solely for primary prevention in young patients (mean age, 44 years) with Brugada syndrome, which carries an inherited increased genetic risk for sudden heart attack in young adults.
Most of the cohort studies reported on the feasibility of RMSs in clinical settings with limited follow-up. In the short follow-up periods of the studies, the majority of the events were related to detection of medical events rather than system configuration or device abnormalities. The results of the studies are summarized below:
The interrogation of devices on the web platform, both for continuous and scheduled transmissions, was significantly quicker with remote follow-up, both for nurses and physicians.
In a case-control study focusing on a Brugada population–based registry with patients followed-up remotely, there were significantly fewer outpatient visits and greater detection of inappropriate shocks. One death occurred in the control group not followed remotely and post-mortem analysis indicated early signs of lead failure prior to the event.
Two studies examined the role of RMSs in following ICD leads under regulatory advisory in a European clinical setting and noted:
– Fewer inappropriate shocks were administered in the RM group.
– Urgent in-office interrogations and surgical revisions were performed within 12 days of remote alerts.
– No signs of lead fracture were detected at in-office follow-up; all were detected at remote follow-up.
Only 1 study reported evaluating quality of life in patients followed up remotely at 3 and 6 months; no values were reported.
Patient satisfaction was evaluated in 5 cohort studies, all in short term follow-up: 1 for the Home Monitoring® RMS, 3 for the Care Link® RMS, and 1 for the House Call 11® RMS.
– Patients reported receiving a sense of security from the transmitter, a good relationship with nurses and physicians, positive implications for their health, and satisfaction with RM and organization of services.
– Although patients reported that the system was easy to implement and required less than 10 minutes to transmit information, a variable proportion of patients (range, 9% 39%) reported that they needed the assistance of a caregiver for their transmission.
– The majority of patients would recommend RM to other ICD patients.
– Patients with hearing or other physical or mental conditions hindering the use of the system were excluded from studies, but the frequency of this was not reported.
Physician satisfaction was evaluated in 3 studies, all with the Care Link® RMS:
– Physicians reported an ease of use and high satisfaction with a generally short-term use of the RMS.
– Physicians reported being able to address the problems in unscheduled patient transmissions or physician initiated transmissions remotely, and were able to handle the majority of the troubleshooting calls remotely.
– Both nurses and physicians reported a high level of satisfaction with the web registry system.
2. Effectiveness of Remote Monitoring Systems in Heart Failure Patients for Cardiac Arrhythmia and Heart Failure Episodes
Remote follow-up of HF patients implanted with ICD or CRT devices, generally managed in specialized HF clinics, was evaluated in 3 cohort studies: 1 involved the Home Monitoring® RMS and 2 involved the Care Link® RMS. In these RMSs, in addition to the standard diagnostic features, the cardiac devices continuously assess other variables such as patient activity, mean heart rate, and heart rate variability. Intra-thoracic impedance, a proxy measure for lung fluid overload, was also measured in the Care Link® studies. The overall diagnostic performance of these measures cannot be evaluated, as the information was not reported for patients who did not experience intra-thoracic impedance threshold crossings or did not undergo interventions. The trial results involved descriptive information on transmissions and alerts in patients experiencing high morbidity and hospitalization in the short study periods.
3. Comparative Effectiveness of Remote Monitoring Systems for CIEDs
Seven RCTs were identified evaluating RMSs for CIEDs: 2 were for PMs (1276 patients) and 5 were for ICD/CRT devices (3733 patients). Studies performed in the clinical setting in the United States involved both the Care Link® RMS and the Home Monitoring® RMS, whereas all studies performed in European countries involved only the Home Monitoring® RMS.
3A. Randomized Controlled Trials of Remote Monitoring Systems for Pacemakers
Two trials, both multicenter RCTs, were conducted in different countries with different RMSs and study objectives. The PREFER trial was a large trial (897 patients) performed in the United States examining the ability of Care Link®, an Internet-based remote PM interrogation system, to detect clinically actionable events (CAEs) sooner than the current in-office follow-up supplemented with transtelephonic monitoring transmissions, a limited form of remote device interrogation. The trial results are summarized below:
In the 375-day mean follow-up, 382 patients were identified with at least 1 CAE—111 patients in the control arm and 271 in the remote arm.
The event rate detected per patient for every type of CAE, except for loss of atrial capture, was higher in the remote arm than the control arm.
The median time to first detection of CAEs (4.9 vs. 6.3 months) was significantly shorter in the RMS group compared to the control group (P < 0.0001).
Additionally, only 2% (3/190) of the CAEs in the control arm were detected during a transtelephonic monitoring transmission (the rest were detected at in-office follow-ups), whereas 66% (446/676) of the CAEs were detected during remote interrogation.
The second study, the OEDIPE trial, was a smaller trial (379 patients) performed in France evaluating the ability of the Home Monitoring® RMS to shorten PM post-operative hospitalization while preserving the safety of conventional management of longer hospital stays.
Implementation and operationalization of the RMS was reported to be successful in 91% (346/379) of the patients and represented 8144 transmissions.
In the RM group 6.5% of patients failed to send messages (10 due to improper use of the transmitter, 2 with unmanageable stress). Of the 172 patients transmitting, 108 patients sent a total of 167 warnings during the trial, with a greater proportion of warnings being attributed to medical rather than technical causes.
Forty percent had no warning message transmission and among these, 6 patients experienced a major adverse event and 1 patient experienced a non-major adverse event. Of the 6 patients having a major adverse event, 5 contacted their physician.
The mean medical reaction time was faster in the RM group (6.5 ± 7.6 days vs. 11.4 ± 11.6 days).
The mean duration of hospitalization was significantly shorter (P < 0.001) for the RM group than the control group (3.2 ± 3.2 days vs. 4.8 ± 3.7 days).
Quality of life estimates by the SF-36 questionnaire were similar for the 2 groups at 1-month follow-up.
3B. Randomized Controlled Trials Evaluating Remote Monitoring Systems for ICD or CRT Devices
The 5 studies evaluating the impact of RMSs with ICD/CRT devices were conducted in the United States and in European countries and involved 2 RMSs—Care Link® and Home Monitoring ®. The objectives of the trials varied and 3 of the trials were smaller pilot investigations.
The first of the smaller studies (151 patients) evaluated patient satisfaction, achievement of patient outcomes, and the cost-effectiveness of the Care Link® RMS compared to quarterly in-office device interrogations with 1-year follow-up.
Individual outcomes such as hospitalizations, emergency department visits, and unscheduled clinic visits were not significantly different between the study groups.
Except for a significantly higher detection of atrial fibrillation in the RM group, data on ICD detection and therapy were similar in the study groups.
Health-related quality of life evaluated by the EuroQoL at 6-month or 12-month follow-up was not different between study groups.
Patients were more satisfied with their ICD care in the clinic follow-up group than in the remote follow-up group at 6-month follow-up, but were equally satisfied at 12- month follow-up.
The second small pilot trial (20 patients) examined the impact of RM follow-up with the House Call 11® system on work schedules and cost savings in patients randomized to 2 study arms varying in the degree of remote follow-up.
The total time including device interrogation, transmission time, data analysis, and physician time required was significantly shorter for the RM follow-up group.
The in-clinic waiting time was eliminated for patients in the RM follow-up group.
The physician talk time was significantly reduced in the RM follow-up group (P < 0.05).
The time for the actual device interrogation did not differ in the study groups.
The third small trial (115 patients) examined the impact of RM with the Home Monitoring® system compared to scheduled trimonthly in-clinic visits on the number of unplanned visits, total costs, health-related quality of life (SF-36), and overall mortality.
There was a 63.2% reduction in in-office visits in the RM group.
Hospitalizations or overall mortality (values not stated) were not significantly different between the study groups.
Patient-induced visits were higher in the RM group than the in-clinic follow-up group.
The TRUST Trial
The TRUST trial was a large multicenter RCT conducted at 102 centers in the United States involving the Home Monitoring® RMS for ICD devices for 1450 patients. The primary objectives of the trial were to determine if remote follow-up could be safely substituted for in-office clinic follow-up (3 in-office visits replaced) and still enable earlier physician detection of clinically actionable events.
Adherence to the protocol follow-up schedule was significantly higher in the RM group than the in-office follow-up group (93.5% vs. 88.7%, P < 0.001).
Actionability of trimonthly scheduled checks was low (6.6%) in both study groups. Overall, actionable causes were reprogramming (76.2%), medication changes (24.8%), and lead/system revisions (4%), and these were not different between the 2 study groups.
The overall mean number of in-clinic and hospital visits was significantly lower in the RM group than the in-office follow-up group (2.1 per patient-year vs. 3.8 per patient-year, P < 0.001), representing a 45% visit reduction at 12 months.
The median time from onset of first arrhythmia to physician evaluation was significantly shorter (P < 0.001) in the RM group than in the in-office follow-up group for all arrhythmias (1 day vs. 35.5 days).
The median time to detect clinically asymptomatic arrhythmia events—atrial fibrillation (AF), ventricular fibrillation (VF), ventricular tachycardia (VT), and supra-ventricular tachycardia (SVT)—was also significantly shorter (P < 0.001) in the RM group compared to the in-office follow-up group (1 day vs. 41.5 days) and was significantly quicker for each of the clinical arrhythmia events—AF (5.5 days vs. 40 days), VT (1 day vs. 28 days), VF (1 day vs. 36 days), and SVT (2 days vs. 39 days).
System-related problems occurred infrequently in both groups—in 1.5% of patients (14/908) in the RM group and in 0.7% of patients (3/432) in the in-office follow-up group.
The overall adverse event rate over 12 months was not significantly different between the 2 groups and individual adverse events were also not significantly different between the RM group and the in-office follow-up group: death (3.4% vs. 4.9%), stroke (0.3% vs. 1.2%), and surgical intervention (6.6% vs. 4.9%), respectively.
The 12-month cumulative survival was 96.4% (95% confidence interval [CI], 95.5%–97.6%) in the RM group and 94.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 91.8%–96.6%) in the in-office follow-up group, and was not significantly different between the 2 groups (P = 0.174).
The CONNECT Trial
The CONNECT trial, another major multicenter RCT, involved the Care Link® RMS for ICD/CRT devices in a15-month follow-up study of 1,997 patients at 133 sites in the United States. The primary objective of the trial was to determine whether automatically transmitted physician alerts decreased the time from the occurrence of clinically relevant events to medical decisions. The trial results are summarized below:
Of the 575 clinical alerts sent in the study, 246 did not trigger an automatic physician alert. Transmission failures were related to technical issues such as the alert not being programmed or not being reset, and/or a variety of patient factors such as not being at home and the monitor not being plugged in or set up.
The overall mean time from the clinically relevant event to the clinical decision was significantly shorter (P < 0.001) by 17.4 days in the remote follow-up group (4.6 days for 172 patients) than the in-office follow-up group (22 days for 145 patients).
– The median time to a clinical decision was shorter in the remote follow-up group than in the in-office follow-up group for an AT/AF burden greater than or equal to 12 hours (3 days vs. 24 days) and a fast VF rate greater than or equal to 120 beats per minute (4 days vs. 23 days).
Although infrequent, similar low numbers of events involving low battery and VF detection/therapy turned off were noted in both groups. More alerts, however, were noted for out-of-range lead impedance in the RM group (18 vs. 6 patients), and the time to detect these critical events was significantly shorter in the RM group (same day vs. 17 days).
Total in-office clinic visits were reduced by 38% from 6.27 visits per patient-year in the in-office follow-up group to 3.29 visits per patient-year in the remote follow-up group.
Health care utilization visits (N = 6,227) that included cardiovascular-related hospitalization, emergency department visits, and unscheduled clinic visits were not significantly higher in the remote follow-up group.
The overall mean length of hospitalization was significantly shorter (P = 0.002) for those in the remote follow-up group (3.3 days vs. 4.0 days) and was shorter both for patients with ICD (3.0 days vs. 3.6 days) and CRT (3.8 days vs. 4.7 days) implants.
The mortality rate between the study arms was not significantly different between the follow-up groups for the ICDs (P = 0.31) or the CRT devices with defribillator (P = 0.46).
Conclusions
There is limited clinical trial information on the effectiveness of RMSs for PMs. However, for RMSs for ICD devices, multiple cohort studies and 2 large multicenter RCTs demonstrated feasibility and significant reductions in in-office clinic follow-ups with RMSs in the first year post implantation. The detection rates of clinically significant events (and asymptomatic events) were higher, and the time to a clinical decision for these events was significantly shorter, in the remote follow-up groups than in the in-office follow-up groups. The earlier detection of clinical events in the remote follow-up groups, however, was not associated with lower morbidity or mortality rates in the 1-year follow-up. The substitution of almost all the first year in-office clinic follow-ups with RM was also not associated with an increased health care utilization such as emergency department visits or hospitalizations.
The follow-up in the trials was generally short-term, up to 1 year, and was a more limited assessment of potential longer term device/lead integrity complications or issues. None of the studies compared the different RMSs, particularly the different RMSs involving patient-scheduled transmissions or automatic transmissions. Patients’ acceptance of and satisfaction with RM were reported to be high, but the impact of RM on patients’ health-related quality of life, particularly the psychological aspects, was not evaluated thoroughly. Patients who are not technologically competent, having hearing or other physical/mental impairments, were identified as potentially disadvantaged with remote surveillance. Cohort studies consistently identified subgroups of patients who preferred in-office follow-up. The evaluation of costs and workflow impact to the health care system were evaluated in European or American clinical settings, and only in a limited way.
Internet-based device-assisted RMSs involve a new approach to monitoring patients, their disease progression, and their CIEDs. Remote monitoring also has the potential to improve the current postmarket surveillance systems of evolving CIEDs and their ongoing hardware and software modifications. At this point, however, there is insufficient information to evaluate the overall impact to the health care system, although the time saving and convenience to patients and physicians associated with a substitution of in-office follow-up by RM is more certain. The broader issues surrounding infrastructure, impacts on existing clinical care systems, and regulatory concerns need to be considered for the implementation of Internet-based RMSs in jurisdictions involving different clinical practices.
PMCID: PMC3377571  PMID: 23074419
5.  Transitioning to the Internet: results of a National Library of Medicine user survey. 
In late 1995, several months prior to the introduction of Internet Grateful Med, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) conducted a customer survey as part of its efforts to make a transition from Grateful Med to new forms of electronic information access and retrieval. A questionnaire survey was mailed to a sample of 2,500 online users randomly selected from domestic users (excluding fixed-fee users) who searched NLM databases during the second quarter of 1995. The final response rate was nearly 83% of eligible respondents. About 70% of NLM customers responding already had access to the Internet, and of those, more than 90% had access to the World Wide Web. However, only 26% of customers with Internet access were using the Internet to access NLM databases. Health care providers account for about 46% of NLM customers but, as a group, search NLM databases relatively infrequently even though they have higher-end equipment. Librarians and information professionals represent about one-fifth of NLM customers and are by far the most intensive users, but tend to have lower-end equipment. Overall, the survey results provide a strong basis for the transition to Internet-based delivery of NLM online database services, including Internet Grateful Med and the NLM family of World Wide Web sites. However, Internet access is uneven, especially in rural areas and at hospitals. This reinforces the need for continuing special outreach efforts directed at improving access for rural and hospital-based users and rural libraries, upgrading computer equipment for medical librarians, and training health care providers in more effective use of Internet-based biomedical information resources.
PMCID: PMC226289  PMID: 9431421
6.  Self-reported use of internet by cervical cancer clients in two National Referral Hospitals in Kenya 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:559.
Background
Cervical cancer remains a devastating disease in Kenya accounting for more than 2000 deaths each year. Lack of information on cervical cancer prevention and management has been attributed to the apathy among women in seeking health interventions. Use of internet-based and mobile e-health tools could increase information access among cervical cancer patients. The objective of the study was; to establish the extent of use of mobile phones and internet by cervical cancer patients in accessing information related to cancer treatment and management.; find out the characteristics of patients associated with internet use and identify barriers faced by the patients in internet use. A cross sectional descriptive survey of 199 cervical patients visiting the two main referral hospitals in Kenya was done. A structured questionnaire was used to collect data.
Findings
The average length of illness was 2.43 years (SD ± 3.0). Only 7.5 %( n=15) reported to having used the internet as a source of information. 92.5 %( n=184) did not use internet. With Multiple options, 70.9% did not know how to use a computer, 29.2% did not have access to a computer, 14.6% lacked the money to use computers at the local cyber cafe while other barriers identified accounted for 11.1%. Patients reported that the internet had an important role in the management of cancer of the cervix in health education (17.6%), online consultation (14.6%), booking of patients (13.6%), referrals (8.5%) and collecting data (7%). The 96.5% of the respondents who had access to a mobile phone, recommended mobile phones for health education messages (31.7%), reminder alerts for medication (29.7%) and booking appointments (21.6%). There was a statistically significant association between income of the patients and internet use (p = 0.026) in this study.
Conclusions
There is low level use of the internet by cervical cancer clients attended in Public referral facilities in Kenya. This was attributed to; lack of knowledge on how to use computers and lack of access to a computer. High level of access to mobile phones was reported. This is an indicator of great potential for use of mobile phones in the management of cervical cancer through short messaging services (sms), without internet connectivity. There is even greater potential to internet use through web access via mobile phones.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-559
PMCID: PMC3576333  PMID: 23046538
Internet use; Cervical cancer; E-health; Mobile phones; Kenya
7.  Computer and internet use by first year clinical and nursing students in a Nigerian teaching hospital 
Background
The internet is an important source of up-to-date medical information. Although several studies in different countries have explored the extent to which health science students use the computer and the internet, few researches are available on this subject in Nigeria. The aim of this study was to assess the uptake of computer and internet by health science students studying in the country.
Methods
One hundred and eighty three first year medical and nursing students of the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Nigeria, completed a-25 item questionnaire during routine Library Orientation Program in the medical library. The EPI-Info software was used for data analysis.
Results
The mean ages for medical students and the student nurses were 22 and 24.6 years respectively. Overall, 42.6% of the entire sample could use the computer, 57.4% could not. While more than half (58%) of the medical students are computer literate, majority (75.9%) of the student nurses are not. Slightly more than two thirds (60.7%) of the entire students had ever used the internet, 33. 9% had not. E-mail was the most popular of internet services used by the students (76.4%) and the cyber café was the common place where students had accessed these services. The students' mean scores on a 15-point perceived self-efficacy scale for internet-related tasks was 3.8 for medical and 0.7 for nursing students (p = 0.00). Students who are computer literate had superior mean scores (4.8) than those without (0.6) (p = 0.000).
Conclusion
First year clinical and nursing students in Ibadan Nigeria have not fully utilised the opportunity that the use of computer and internet offer for medical education. Improved efforts such as inclusion of computer education in medical and nursing curricular and establishment of computer laboratories are required to increase the student's access to computers and internet.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-3-10
PMCID: PMC222977  PMID: 14498997
8.  Patients' Use of the Internet for Medical Information 
OBJECTIVES
To determine the percentage of patients enrolled in a primary care practice who use the Internet for health information, to describe the types of information sought, to evaluate patients' perceptions of the quality of this information, and to determine if patients who use the Internet for health information discuss this with their doctors.
DESIGN
Self-administered mailed survey.
SETTING
Patients from a primary care internal medicine private practice.
PARTICIPANTS
Randomly selected patients (N = 1,000) were mailed a confidential survey between December 1999 and March 2000. The response rate was 56.2%.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS
Of the 512 patients who returned the survey, 53.5% (274) stated that they used the Internet for medical information. Those using the Internet for medical information were more educated (P < .001) and had higher incomes (P < .001). Respondents used the Internet for information on a broad range of medical topics. Sixty percent felt that the information on the Internet was the “same as” or “better than” information from their doctors. Of those using the Internet for health information, 59% did not discuss this information with their doctor. Neither gender, education level, nor age less than 60 years was associated with patients sharing their Web searches with their physicians. However, patients who discussed this information with their doctors rated the quality of information higher than those who did not share this information with their providers.
CONCLUSIONS
Primary care providers should recognize that patients are using the World Wide Web as a source of medical and health information and should be prepared to offer suggestions for Web-based health resources and to assist patients in evaluating the quality of medical information available on the Internet.
doi:10.1046/j.1525-1497.2002.10603.x
PMCID: PMC1495021  PMID: 11929503
Internet; primary care; health information
9.  What Internet Services Would Patients Like From Hospitals During an Epidemic? Lessons From the SARS Outbreak in Toronto 
Background
International health organizations and officials are bracing for a pandemic. Although the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Toronto did not reach such a level, it created a unique opportunity to identify the optimal use of the Internet to promote communication with the public and to preserve health services during an epidemic.
Objective
The aim of the study was to explore patients’ attitudes regarding the health services that might be provided through the Internet to supplement those traditionally available in the event of a future mass emergency situation.
Methods
We conducted “mask-to-mask” surveys of patients at three major teaching hospitals in Toronto during the second outbreak of SARS. Patients were surveyed at the hospital entrances and selected clinics. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression models were used for the analysis.
Results
In total, 1019 of 1130 patients responded to the survey (90% overall response rate). With respect to Internet use, 70% (711/1019) used the Internet by themselves and 57% (578/1019) with the help of a friend or family member. Of the Internet users, 68% (485/711) had already searched the World Wide Web for health information, and 75% (533/711) were interested in communicating with health professionals using the Internet as part of their ongoing care. Internet users expressed interest in using the Web for the following reasons: to learn about their health condition through patient education materials (84%), to obtain information about the status of their clinic appointments (83%), to send feedback to the hospital about how to improve its services (77%), to access screening tools to help determine if they were potentially affected by the infectious agent responsible for the outbreak (77%), to renew prescriptions (75%), to consult with their health professional about nonurgent matters (75%), and to access laboratory test results (75%). Regression results showed that younger age, higher education, and English as a first language were predictors of patients’ interest in using Internet services in the event of an epidemic.
Conclusion
Most patients are willing and able to use the Internet as a means to maintain communication with the hospital during an outbreak of an infectious disease such as SARS. Hospitals should explore new ways to interact with the public, to provide relevant health information, and to ensure continuity of care when they are forced to restrict their services.
doi:10.2196/jmir.7.4.e46
PMCID: PMC1550678  PMID: 16236698
Severe acute respiratory syndrome; communicable diseases, emerging; information services; Internet; public health; questionnaires
10.  Norwegian Physicians' Knowledge of and Opinions about Evidence-Based Medicine: Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(11):e7828.
Objective
To answer five research questions: Do Norwegian physicians know about the three important aspects of EBM? Do they use EBM methods in their clinical practice? What are their attitudes towards EBM? Has EBM in their opinion changed medical practice during the last 10 years? Do they use EBM based information sources?
Design
Cross sectional survey in 2006.
Setting
Norway.
Participants
966 doctors who responded to a questionnaire (70% response rate).
Results
In total 87% of the physicians mentioned the use of randomised clinical trials as a key aspect of EBM, while 53% of them mentioned use of clinical expertise and only 19% patients' values. 40% of the respondents reported that their practice had always been evidence-based. Many respondents experienced difficulties in using EBM principles in their clinical practice because of lack of time and difficulties in searching EBM based literature. 80% agreed that EBM helps physicians towards better practice and 52% that it improves patients' health. As reasons for changes in medical practice 86% of respondents mentioned medical progress, but only 39% EBM.
Conclusions
The results of the study indicate that Norwegian physicians have a limited knowledge of the key aspects of EBM but a positive attitude towards the concept. They had limited experience in the practice of EBM and were rather indifferent to the impact of EBM on medical practice. For solving a patient problem, physicians would rather consult a colleague than searching evidence based resources such as the Cochrane Library.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0007828
PMCID: PMC2773422  PMID: 19915708
11.  Increasing utilization of Internet-based resources following efforts to promote evidence-based medicine: a national study in Taiwan 
Background
Since the beginning of 2007, the National Health Research Institutes has been promoting the dissemination of evidence-based medicine (EBM). The current study examined longitudinal trends of behaviors in how hospital-based physicians and nurses have searched for medical information during the spread of EBM.
Methods
Cross-sectional postal questionnaire surveys were conducted in nationally representative regional hospitals of Taiwan thrice in 2007, 2009, and 2011. Demographic data were gathered concerning gender, age, working experience, teaching appointment, academic degree, and administrative position. Linear and logistic regression models were used to examine predictors and changes over time.
Results
Data from physicians and nurses were collected in 2007 (n = 1156), 2009 (n = 2975), and 2011 (n = 3999). There were significant increases in the use of four Internet-based resources – Web portals, online databases, electronic journals, and electronic books – across the three survey years among physicians and nurses (p < 0.001). Access to textbooks and printed journals, however, did not change over the 4-year study period. In addition, there were significant relationships between the usage of Internet-based resources and users’ characteristics. Age and faculty position were important predictors in relation to the usage among physicians and nurses, while academic degree served as a critical factor among nurses only.
Conclusions
Physicians and nurses used a variety of sources to look for medical information. There was a steady increase in use of Internet-based resources during the diffusion period of EBM. The findings highlight the importance of the Internet as a prominent source of medical information for main healthcare professionals.
doi:10.1186/1472-6947-13-4
PMCID: PMC3639803  PMID: 23289500
12.  Health Information–Seeking Behavior of Seniors Who Use the Internet: A Survey 
Background
The Internet is viewed as an important source for health information and a medium for patient empowerment. However, little is known about how seniors use the Internet in relation to other sources for health information.
Objective
The aim was to determine which information resources seniors who use the Internet use and trust for health information, which sources are preferred, and which sources are used by seniors for different information needs.
Methods
Questions from published surveys were selected based on their relevance to the study objectives. The Autonomy Preference Index was used to assess information needs and preferences for involvement in health decisions. Invitation to participate in this online survey was sent to the email list of a local senior organization (298 addresses) in the Netherlands.
Results
There were 118 respondents with a median age of 72 years (IQR 67-78 years). Health professionals, pharmacists, and the Internet were the most commonly used and trusted sources of health information. Leaflets, television, newspapers, and health magazines were also important sources. Respondents who reported higher use of the Internet also reported higher use of other sources (P<.001). Use of health professionals, pharmacists, leaflets, telephone, television, and radio were not significantly different; use of all other resources was significantly higher in frequent Internet users. When in need of health information, preferred sources were the Internet (46/105, 43.8%), other sources (eg, magazines 38/105, 36.2%), health professionals (18/105, 17.1%), and no information seeking (3/105, 2.8%). Of the 51/107 respondents who indicated that they had sought health information in the last 12 months, 43 sought it after an appointment, 23 were preparing for an appointment, and 20 were deciding if an appointment was needed. The source used varied by the type of information sought. The Internet was used most often for symptoms (27/42, 64%), prognosis (21/31, 68%), and treatment options (23/41, 62%), whereas health professionals were asked for additional information on medications (20/36, 56%), side effects (17/36, 47%), coping (17/31, 55%), practical care (12/14, 86%), and nutrition/exercise (18/30, 60%).
Conclusions
For these seniors who use the Internet, the Internet was a preferred source of health information. Seniors who report higher use of the Internet also report higher use of other information resources and were also the primary consumers of paper-based resources. Respondents most frequently searched for health information after an appointment rather than to prepare for an appointment. Resources used varied by health topic. Future research should seek to confirm these findings in a general elderly population, investigate how seniors seek and understand information on the Internet, and investigate how to reach seniors who prefer not to use the Internet for health information.
doi:10.2196/jmir.3749
PMCID: PMC4296102  PMID: 25574815
aged; aged, 80 and over; information-seeking behavior; Internet; patient education; empowerment
13.  Interactions between Non-Physician Clinicians and Industry: A Systematic Review 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(11):e1001561.
In a systematic review of studies of interactions between non-physician clinicians and industry, Quinn Grundy and colleagues found that many of the issues identified for physicians' industry interactions exist for non-physician clinicians.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
With increasing restrictions placed on physician–industry interactions, industry marketing may target other health professionals. Recent health policy developments confer even greater importance on the decision making of non-physician clinicians. The purpose of this systematic review is to examine the types and implications of non-physician clinician–industry interactions in clinical practice.
Methods and Findings
We searched MEDLINE and Web of Science from January 1, 1946, through June 24, 2013, according to PRISMA guidelines. Non-physician clinicians eligible for inclusion were: Registered Nurses, nurse prescribers, Physician Assistants, pharmacists, dieticians, and physical or occupational therapists; trainee samples were excluded. Fifteen studies met inclusion criteria. Data were synthesized qualitatively into eight outcome domains: nature and frequency of industry interactions; attitudes toward industry; perceived ethical acceptability of interactions; perceived marketing influence; perceived reliability of industry information; preparation for industry interactions; reactions to industry relations policy; and management of industry interactions. Non-physician clinicians reported interacting with the pharmaceutical and infant formula industries. Clinicians across disciplines met with pharmaceutical representatives regularly and relied on them for practice information. Clinicians frequently received industry “information,” attended sponsored “education,” and acted as distributors for similar materials targeted at patients. Clinicians generally regarded this as an ethical use of industry resources, and felt they could detect “promotion” while benefiting from industry “information.” Free samples were among the most approved and common ways that clinicians interacted with industry. Included studies were observational and of varying methodological rigor; thus, these findings may not be generalizable. This review is, however, the first to our knowledge to provide a descriptive analysis of this literature.
Conclusions
Non-physician clinicians' generally positive attitudes toward industry interactions, despite their recognition of issues related to bias, suggest that industry interactions are normalized in clinical practice across non-physician disciplines. Industry relations policy should address all disciplines and be implemented consistently in order to mitigate conflicts of interest and address such interactions' potential to affect patient care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Making and selling health care goods (including drugs and devices) and services is big business. To maximize the profits they make for their shareholders, companies involved in health care build relationships with physicians by providing information on new drugs, organizing educational meetings, providing samples of their products, giving gifts, and holding sponsored events. These relationships help to keep physicians informed about new developments in health care but also create the potential for causing harm to patients and health care systems. These relationships may, for example, result in increased prescription rates of new, heavily marketed medications, which are often more expensive than their generic counterparts (similar unbranded drugs) and that are more likely to be recalled for safety reasons than long-established drugs. They may also affect the provision of health care services. Industry is providing an increasingly large proportion of routine health care services in many countries, so relationships built up with physicians have the potential to influence the commissioning of the services that are central to the treatment and well-being of patients.
Why Was This Study Done?
As a result of concerns about the tension between industry's need to make profits and the ethics underlying professional practice, restrictions are increasingly being placed on physician–industry interactions. In the US, for example, the Physician Payments Sunshine Act now requires US manufacturers of drugs, devices, and medical supplies that participate in federal health care programs to disclose all payments and gifts made to physicians and teaching hospitals. However, other health professionals, including those with authority to prescribe drugs such as pharmacists, Physician Assistants, and nurse practitioners are not covered by this legislation or by similar legislation in other settings, even though the restructuring of health care to prioritize primary care and multidisciplinary care models means that “non-physician clinicians” are becoming more numerous and more involved in decision-making and medication management. In this systematic review (a study that uses predefined criteria to identify all the research on a given topic), the researchers examine the nature and implications of the interactions between non-physician clinicians and industry.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 15 published studies that examined interactions between non-physician clinicians (Registered Nurses, nurse prescribers, midwives, pharmacists, Physician Assistants, and dieticians) and industry (corporations that produce health care goods and services). They extracted the data from 16 publications (representing 15 different studies) and synthesized them qualitatively (combined the data and reached word-based, rather than numerical, conclusions) into eight outcome domains, including the nature and frequency of interactions, non-physician clinicians' attitudes toward industry, and the perceived ethical acceptability of interactions. In the research the authors identified, non-physician clinicians reported frequent interactions with the pharmaceutical and infant formula industries. Most non-physician clinicians met industry representatives regularly, received gifts and samples, and attended educational events or received educational materials (some of which they distributed to patients). In these studies, non-physician clinicians generally regarded these interactions positively and felt they were an ethical and appropriate use of industry resources. Only a minority of non-physician clinicians felt that marketing influenced their own practice, although a larger percentage felt that their colleagues would be influenced. A sizeable proportion of non-physician clinicians questioned the reliability of industry information, but most were confident that they could detect biased information and therefore rated this information as reliable, valuable, or useful.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These and other findings suggest that non-physician clinicians generally have positive attitudes toward industry interactions but recognize issues related to bias and conflict of interest. Because these findings are based on a small number of studies, most of which were undertaken in the US, they may not be generalizable to other countries. Moreover, they provide no quantitative assessment of the interaction between non-physician clinicians and industry and no information about whether industry interactions affect patient care outcomes. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that industry interactions are normalized (seen as standard) in clinical practice across non-physician disciplines. This normalization creates the potential for serious risks to patients and health care systems. The researchers suggest that it may be unrealistic to expect that non-physician clinicians can be taught individually how to interact with industry ethically or how to detect and avert bias, particularly given the ubiquitous nature of marketing and promotional materials. Instead, they suggest, the environment in which non-physician clinicians practice should be structured to mitigate the potentially harmful effects of interactions with industry.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001561.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by James S. Yeh and Aaron S. Kesselheim
The American Medical Association provides guidance for physicians on interactions with pharmaceutical industry representatives, information about the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, and a toolkit for preparing Physician Payments Sunshine Act reports
The International Council of Nurses provides some guidance on industry interactions in its position statement on nurse-industry relations
The UK General Medical Council provides guidance on financial and commercial arrangements and conflicts of interest as part of its good medical practice website, which describes what is required of all registered doctors in the UK
Understanding and Responding to Pharmaceutical Promotion: A Practical Guide is a manual prepared by Health Action International and the World Health Organization that schools of medicine and pharmacy can use to train students how to recognize and respond to pharmaceutical promotion.
The Institute of Medicine's Report on Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice recommends steps to identify, limit, and manage conflicts of interest
The University of California, San Francisco, Office of Continuing Medical Education offers a course called Marketing of Medicines
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001561
PMCID: PMC3841103  PMID: 24302892
14.  The internet user profile of Italian families of patients with rare diseases: a web survey 
Background
The use of the Internet for searching and sharing health information and for health care interactions may have a great potential for families of children affected with rare diseases. We conducted an online survey among Italian families of patients with rare diseases with the objective to describe their Internet user profile, and to explore how Internet use affects their health decisions.
Methods
All members of UNIAMIO FIMR, a federation of associations of patients with rare diseases, were invited via mail to participate in an online questionnaire including questions on socio-demographic and clinical information, Internet use with a specific focus on health, and impact of web information on health behaviors. Logistic regression models were used to explore the effect of socio-demographic variables and Internet user profile on dependent variables representing the impact of web information on health behaviors. Multiple imputation by chained equations was applied.
Results
A total of 516 parents of patients with rare diseases completed the online questionnaire. Mean age was 43 years. 87% of respondents accessed the Internet daily, 40% through their smartphones. 99% had an email account, 71% had a Facebook account. 66% participate in an online forum on health. 99% searched for information on disease characteristics, 93% on therapy, 89% on diagnosis, 63% on alternative therapies, 62% on nutrition and 54% on future pregnancies. 82% stated that web information increased comprehension of the disease, 65% that it improved management of the disease. For 52% web information increased his or her anxiety. 62% recognized diagnosis, 69% discussed online information with their physician. People participating in forums more frequently stated that Internet information was useful for recognizing their child’s disease (OR 1.68; 95%CI 1.08-2.63) and for improving its management (OR 1.77; 95%CI 1.11-2.81).
Conclusion
Italian parents of patients with rare diseases are active Internet users, engaged in information search and in online communities.
Physicians, health care facilities and health agencies have a great opportunity to engage in online interactions for empowering families of patients of children affected with rare diseases.
doi:10.1186/1750-1172-8-76
PMCID: PMC3662591  PMID: 23680013
Internet; Telemedicine; Rare diseases
15.  The practice of evidence-based medicine (EBM) in gastroenterology: discrepancies between EBM familiarity and EBM competency 
Introduction: Evidence-based medicine (EBM) has become increasingly important in the practice of gastroenterology and endoscopy, and the training of future gastroenterology physicians. The objectives were to assess the attitudes/opinions of gastroenterology specialists towards EBM, and evaluate possible gaps in education for certain EBM-related concepts.
Methods: An internet-based survey was emailed to 4073 gastroenterology specialists. The main outcome measurements were physicians’ endorsement of EBM, impact of EBM on clinical practice, utilization of EBM-specific resources, self-assessed understanding of EBM concepts (EBM familiarity score), and actual knowledge of EBM concepts (EBM competency score).
Results: A total of 337 gastroenterology specialists participated. On a sale of 1–10, there was widespread agreement that EBM improves patient care (median score = 9, interquartile range (IQR) = 7–10), and physicians should be familiar with techniques for critical appraisal of studies (median = 9, IQR = 8–10). Most (64.0%) utilized the EBM-related resource UpToDate™ regularly, as opposed to PubMed™ (47.1%) or Clinical Evidence™ (5.4%). The mean EBM familiarity score was 3.4 ± 0.6 on a scale of 1–4. Out of a maximum 49 points, the mean EBM competency score was 35 ± 4.9. There was poor concordance among EBM familiarity and competency scores (r = 0.161; p = 0.005). Academic practice (p < 0.001), research/teaching (p < 0.001), advanced degree (p = 0.012), and recent EBM training (p = 0.001) were all associated with improved EBM competency.
Conclusion: The attitudes and opinions of EBM are extremely favorable among gastroenterology physicians. Although gastroenterology physicians report familiarity with most EBM-related concepts, there is poor correlation with their actual knowledge of EBM. Further educational initiatives should be undertaken to address methods in which EBM skills are reinforced among all gastroenterology practitioners.
doi:10.1177/1756283X11412240
PMCID: PMC3165209  PMID: 21922027
clinical practice; evidence-based medicine; survey
16.  Utilization and Perceived Problems of Online Medical Resources and Search Tools Among Different Groups of European Physicians 
Background
There is a large body of research suggesting that medical professionals have unmet information needs during their daily routines.
Objective
To investigate which online resources and tools different groups of European physicians use to gather medical information and to identify barriers that prevent the successful retrieval of medical information from the Internet.
Methods
A detailed Web-based questionnaire was sent out to approximately 15,000 physicians across Europe and disseminated through partner websites. 500 European physicians of different levels of academic qualification and medical specialization were included in the analysis. Self-reported frequency of use of different types of online resources, perceived importance of search tools, and perceived search barriers were measured. Comparisons were made across different levels of qualification (qualified physicians vs physicians in training, medical specialists without professorships vs medical professors) and specialization (general practitioners vs specialists).
Results
Most participants were Internet-savvy, came from Austria (43%, 190/440) and Switzerland (31%, 137/440), were above 50 years old (56%, 239/430), stated high levels of medical work experience, had regular patient contact and were employed in nonacademic health care settings (41%, 177/432). All groups reported frequent use of general search engines and cited “restricted accessibility to good quality information” as a dominant barrier to finding medical information on the Internet. Physicians in training reported the most frequent use of Wikipedia (56%, 31/55). Specialists were more likely than general practitioners to use medical research databases (68%, 185/274 vs 27%, 24/88; χ2 2=44.905, P<.001). General practitioners were more likely than specialists to report “lack of time” as a barrier towards finding information on the Internet (59%, 50/85 vs 43%, 111/260; χ2 1=7.231, P=.007) and to restrict their search by language (48%, 43/89 vs 35%, 97/278; χ2 1=5.148, P=.023). They frequently consult general health websites (36%, 31/87 vs 19%, 51/269; χ2 2=12.813, P=.002) and online physician network communities (17%, 15/86, χ2 2=9.841 vs 6%, 17/270, P<.001).
Conclusions
The reported inaccessibility of relevant, trustworthy resources on the Internet and frequent reliance on general search engines and social media among physicians require further attention. Possible solutions may be increased governmental support for the development and popularization of user-tailored medical search tools and open access to high-quality content for physicians. The potential role of collaborative tools in providing the psychological support and affirmation normally given by medical colleagues needs further consideration. Tools that speed up quality evaluation and aid selection of relevant search results need to be identified. In order to develop an adequate search tool, a differentiated approach considering the differing needs of physician subgroups may be beneficial.
doi:10.2196/jmir.2436
PMCID: PMC3713956  PMID: 23803299
information seeking behavior; physicians; Internet; search engine; information quality; language barriers
17.  Welcome Message from the Scientific Programme Committee 
It gives us great pleasure to welcome you to MEDNET99 - The 4th World Congress on the Internet in Medicine.
MEDNET99 is an international meeting which aims to bring together researchers, developers and users involved in the application of the Internet in Medicine. The Congress - this year under the theme "Towards the Millennium of Cybermedicine - will provide a forum for exploration of the rapidly developing relationship between medical sciences and the Internet, and is relevant to all medical and health care professionals, as well as those involved in the development and application of the new technological opportunities offered to the medical field by the Internet and the World Wide Web.
This year's Congress will take place over three full days, 19th - 21st September 1999, in the small and beautiful town of Heidelberg, one of the most famous tourist destinations in Germany and the town with the oldest German University.
MEDNET99 follows on from three successful MEDNET meetings, all held in the United Kingdom, which were attended by large international and multi-disciplinary groups of delegates. MEDNET98 was attended by more than 250 participants. After these three successful conferences in the United Kingdom, this year's MEDNET will for the first time be hosted outside of the UK. It will therefore hopefully be the first in a long series of World Congresses of Internet in Medicine hosted in different countries around the globe.
MEDNET99 will be preceded by several events on Saturday, 18th September: In a series of tutorials, experts in the field share their knowledge. To take account of local developments in the Internet scene we also organised a satellite symposium on "Internet and Medicine in Germany". A further novum is the "patient afternoon", where we bring together health care professionals with consumers to talk about medical information — in particular cancer information — on the Internet.
MEDNET99 will be focusing on the following themes:
applications of the Internet in medical information exchange and medical education
role of Internet and information exchange in evidence-based healthcare
use of the Internet for consumer health promotion and impact of the Internet on public health
global and regional health information networks
commercial information systems and portal sites for physicians
eJournals and scientific publishing on the Internet, online peer-review, impact of Internet on traditional medical publishing
telemedicine
search engines, search agents and other search tools
electronic mail
using the Internet for medical research and clinical trials
quality of Internet information
Internet usage statistics and demographics
clinical information systems and Intranets
system design issues
legal and ethical issues
As well as providing a forum for delegates to exchange valuable information, MEDNET99 will provide a varied program of social events and interesting workshops.
On behalf of the organisers and the Scientific Programme Committee of MEDNET99, we would like to extend a warm welcome to Heidelberg and we hope that you will all have a stimulating and rewarding Congress.
doi:10.2196/jmir.1.suppl1.e1
PMCID: PMC1761831
18.  Determinants of the frequency of online health information seeking: results of a web-based survey conducted in France in 2007 
Objective
The Internet is a widespread source of health information for health-care professionals and patients. Social inequalities in Internet access have been well studied but not practices. This study was conducted to determine whether differences exist in the frequency of Internet use for health information among online health seekers.
Methods
We conducted an Internet-based survey from November 2006 to March 2007. The 3720 residents of France who had searched for health information during the previous year were considered.
Results
This study reveals different practice of online health information seeking between men, women, the general population and people who work in the health sector. Health status and active Internet use were associated with higher frequencies to varying degrees. Greater health concerns and some issues in the physician-patient relationship were associated with higher frequencies of Internet use in the general population.
Conclusions
The Internet seems to be used as a substitute information tool when issues of communication or confidence with physicians arise as well as to lead people to question physicians and medicine.
Practical implications
Physician and public health actors should remain cautious about these disparities in online health information seeking access and practices, quality issues concerning online information and about possible self-exclusion from the health-care system.
doi:10.3109/17538150903358784
PMCID: PMC3034225  PMID: 20302437
Adolescent; Adult; Age Factors; Attitude to Health; Caregivers; Consumer Health Information; methods; Female; France; Health Status; Humans; Internet; Male; Middle Aged; Questionnaires; Sex Factors; Socioeconomic Factors; Young Adult
19.  Characteristics of evidence-based medicine training in Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada emergency medicine residencies - a national survey of program directors 
BMC Medical Education  2014;14:57.
Background
Recent surveys suggest few emergency medicine (EM) training programs have formal evidence-based medicine (EBM) or journal club curricula. Our primary objective was to describe the methods of EBM training in Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) EM residencies. Secondary objectives were to explore attitudes regarding current educational practices including e-learning, investigate barriers to journal club and EBM education, and assess the desire for national collaboration.
Methods
A 16-question survey containing binary, open-ended, and 5-pt Likert scale questions was distributed to the 14 RCPSC-EM program directors. Proportions of respondents (%), median, and IQR are reported.
Results
The response rate was 93% (13/14). Most programs (85%) had established EBM curricula. Curricula content was delivered most frequently via journal club, with 62% of programs having 10 or more sessions annually. Less than half of journal clubs (46%) were led consistently by EBM experts. Four programs did not use a critical appraisal tool in their sessions (31%). Additional teaching formats included didactic and small group sessions, self-directed e-learning, EBM workshops, and library tutorials. 54% of programs operated educational websites with EBM resources. Program directors attributed highest importance to two core goals in EBM training curricula: critical appraisal of medical literature, and application of literature to patient care (85% rating 5 - “most importance”, respectively). Podcasts, blogs, and online journal clubs were valued for EBM teaching roles including creating exposure to literature (4, IQR 1.5) and linking literature to clinical practice experience (4, IQR 1.5) (1-no merit, 5-strong merit). Five of thirteen respondents rated lack of expert leadership and trained faculty educators as potential limitations to EBM education. The majority of respondents supported the creation of a national unified EBM educational resource (4, IQR 1) (1-no support, 5- strongly support).
Conclusions
RCPSC-EM programs have established EBM teaching curricula and deliver content most frequently via journal club. A lack of EBM expert educators may limit content delivery at certain sites. Program directors supported the nationalization of EBM educational resources. A growing usage of electronic resources may represent an avenue to link national EBM educational expertise, facilitating future collaborative educational efforts.
doi:10.1186/1472-6920-14-57
PMCID: PMC3994414  PMID: 24650317
Evidence-based medicine; Medical education; Emergency medicine; E-learning; Journal club
20.  Internet Use and eHealth Literacy of Low-Income Parents Whose Children Have Special Health Care Needs 
Background
The Internet has revolutionized the way in which many Americans search for health care information. Unfortunately, being able to use the Internet for this purpose is predicated on having access to the Internet and being able to understand and comprehend online health information. This is especially important for parents of children with special health care needs who are forced to make many medical decisions throughout the lives of their children. Yet, no information is available about this vulnerable group.
Objective
For parents of children with special health care needs we sought to (1) describe their Internet access and use, (2) determine which child and household factors were associated with Internet use, (3) describe eHealth literacy of Internet users, and (4) determine which child and household factors were associated with greater eHealth literacy.
Methods
This was a cross-sectional telephone survey of 2371 parents whose children with special health care needs were enrolled in Florida’s Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (SCHIP) programs (4072 parents were approached). To be enrolled in the program, families must have incomes that are less than or equal to 200% of the federal poverty level. The eHealth Literacy Scale (eHEALS) was used to measure eHealth literacy. Descriptive and multivariate analyses were conducted to address the study objectives.
Results
The survey response rate was 58.2%. Participating parents were mainly female (2154/2371, 91%), white non-Hispanic (915/2371, 39%), English speaking (1827/2371, 77%), high school graduates (721/2371, 30%), married (1252/2371, 53%), and living in a two-parent household (1212/2371, 51%). Additionally, 82% of parents (1945/2371) in the sample reported that they used the Internet, and 49% of those parents used it daily (1158/2371). Almost three-quarters of Internet users had access to the Internet at home while about one-half had access at work. Parents who were African American, non-English speaking, older, and not college graduates were less likely to use the Internet than their referent groups (P < .001). About 74% of Internet users (1448/1945) reported that they knew how to find health information for their children. However, only about one-half (1030/1945) reported that they can tell high quality from low quality resources online or that they feel confident in using information accessed online to make health decisions. Multivariate regression results consistently showed that being a non-English speaker, having less than a high school education, and being older were all significantly associated with lower eHealth literacy (all P < .001).
Conclusion
Low-income parents of children with special health care needs have access to and use the Internet as a source of information about their children's health. However, some parents are unable to distinguish between high and low quality information and are not confident in using the Internet. This information is timely because as the pressure to use the Internet to empower consumers and exchange information increases, issues related to access and disparities must be better understood.
doi:10.2196/jmir.1697
PMCID: PMC3222184  PMID: 21960017
Children; Internet; Medicaid
21.  Information Rx: Evaluation of a new informatics tool for physicians, patients, and libraries 
Information Services & Use  2006;26(1):1-10.
Abstract
This paper reports selected results from two comprehensive evaluation studies of the Information Prescription (or “Information Rx”) Program implementation conducted from 2002-05 by the American College of Physicians Foundation (ACPF) and the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM). In this Program physicians are provided with Information Prescription pads, analogous to pads used to prescribe medications, that are used to direct patients to the MedlinePlus web site and its contents that are applicable to a patient's health condition. The results describe the Program's potential to enhance patient education and interpersonal communication from physician and patient perspectives. The findings suggest once physicians adopt the use of an information prescription, they perceive they are providing an additional clinical service that enhances patient education and interpersonal communication. For physicians, participation in information prescription may improve patient communication, encourage information seeking, and lessen the number of poor quality Internet searches that patients frequently self-perform and bring to a doctor's office. Similarly, once patients receive a recommendation from a physician to seek health information on the web, patients may be more comfortable with health seeking on the Internet and discussing their findings with their doctor. The conclusions of the two evaluation studies imply an Information Prescription fosters a dialogue between providers and patients, helps patients use the Internet more effectively and seems to favorably impact patient education. As the medical community and patient advocacy groups continue to emphasize the importance of evidence-based information as the gold standard for accepted care, it can be expected that informatics tools such as Information Rx will come to play an increasingly important role as a vehicle to help identify and access high quality health information on the Internet.
PMCID: PMC1610110  PMID: 17060946
22.  Evaluating factors affecting the implementation of evidence based medicine in primary healthcare centers in Dubai 
Objectives
To assess the current evidence based medicine (EBM) knowledge, attitude and perceptions of physicians at Dubai Primary Health Care Sector (PHCS). Further to evaluate barrier and facilitator factors toward implementing the EBM practice.
Methodology
A cross-sectional study, at Dubai PHCS, UAE between June and August 2010. The survey was composed of two phases. The first phase was a self administrated questionnaire employed for data collection and the second phase was qualitative method, which was in the form of individual interviews. Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) was used for data analysis.
Results
In total 48 participants responded to the survey questionnaire and 13 responded to individual interviews. The response rate was 70.0%. Mean age was 42.18 (SD 10.46). The majority were females (64.6%). The physicians who attended EBM courses reported 70.30% using EBM and showed statistical significance (p = 0.002) from those who did not attend the EBM courses. 65.0% believe that 50–75% of the patients are capable of participating in clinical decision while 71.8% disagreed that the concept of EBM is not applicable to their culture. In addition they showed significance (p = 0.03) between physician beliefs with regard to patient capacity to take decision. About 67.0% of the family physicians were knowledgeable and followed systematic review as the strongest evidence. They had no access to the EBM resources (37.0%) and had no time to practice the EBM (38.0%). Nearly 40.0% interviewees reported lack of encouragement to attend EBM courses. EBM activities (22.0%) and active audit (18.0%) were top rated facilitating factors.
Conclusions
EBM is not fully utilized by indefinite physicians in the Dubai PHC sector. Factors associated with non-utilization of EBM in the PHCS are lack of encouragement to attend EBM courses, senior physicians resist adoption of EBM, lack of time and insufficient dissemination process for implementing the clinical guideline.
doi:10.1016/j.jsps.2013.05.003
PMCID: PMC4099570  PMID: 25061405
Evidence based medicine; Barriers; Attitude; Behavior; PHCS
23.  Analysis of Internet Usage Among Cancer Patients in a County Hospital Setting: A Quality Improvement Initiative 
JMIR Research Protocols  2014;3(2):e26.
Background
Cancer is one of the most common diseases that patients research on the Internet. The Commission on Cancer (CoC) recommended that Parkland Memorial Hospital (PMH) improve the oncology services website. PMH is Dallas County’s public health care facility, serving a largely uninsured, minority population. Most research regarding patient Internet use has been conducted in insured, Caucasian populations, raising concerns that the needs of PMH patients may not be extrapolated from available data. The PMH Cancer Committee, therefore, adopted a quality improvement initiative to understand patients’ Internet usage.
Objective
The objective of the study was to obtain and analyze data regarding patients’ Internet usage in order to make targeted improvements to the oncology services section of the institutional website.
Methods
A task force developed an 11-question survey to ascertain what proportion of our patients have Internet access and use the Internet to obtain medical information as well as determine the specific information sought. Between April 2011 and August 2011, 300 surveys were administered to newly diagnosed cancer patients. Multivariate analyses were performed.
Results
Of 300 surveys, 291 were included. Minorities, primarily African-American and Hispanic, represented 78.0% (227/291) of patients. Only 37.1% (108/291) of patients had Internet access, most (256/291, 87.9%) having access at home. Younger patients more commonly had Internet access, with a mean age of 47 versus 58 years for those without (P<.001). Education beyond high school was associated with Internet access (P<.001). The most common reason for Internet research was to develop questions for discussion with one’s physician. Patients most frequently sought information regarding cancer treatment options, outcomes, and side effects.
Conclusions
Less than one-half of PMH oncology patients have Internet access. This is influenced by age, educational level, and ethnicity. Those with access use it to obtain information related to their cancer diagnosis. The most effective way of addressing our patients’ needs using the institutional website is to provide links to reputable disease-specific sites.
doi:10.2196/resprot.2806
PMCID: PMC4034116  PMID: 24824330
Internet; cancer; quality; quality improvement; patient education
24.  Professional use of the internet among Saudi Arabian dermatologists: a cross-sectional survey 
BMC Dermatology  2009;9:10.
Background
The internet is an increasingly important tool for physicians, but the extent to which it is used by dermatologists is unknown. We aimed to investigate the utilization of the internet by dermatologists in Saudi Arabia for medical purposes during their daily practice and to clarify the reasons for its use and non-use.
Methods
A self-administered questionnaire was distributed to all 160 dermatologists attending the National Dermatology conference in 2007.
Results
A total of 107 questionnaires were completed. Sixty-two percent of respondents had access to the internet in the workplace. The use of the internet to update medical knowledge was reported by 91%.
Only 27% had internet access in consultation rooms. The majority of information retrieval occurred outside patient consultation hours (91%).
Only 13% reported using the internet during patient consultation. Possible reasons included: lack of access (54%), time pressure (37%), possible interference with the physician-patient relationship (30%), and that use of the internet was too time-consuming (10%). The mean searching time used to solve a clinical problem was 34 ± 3 minutes. Fifty-eight percent used Pubmed; however, 77% of the dermatologists had no training at all in how to use this tool.
Conclusion
Professional medical use of the internet is widespread among dermatologists in Saudi Arabia. Providing access to the internet in the workplace and training of dermatologists to perform effective electronic searches are badly needed to improve the professional medical use of internet, which is expected to lead to better delivery of patient care.
doi:10.1186/1471-5945-9-10
PMCID: PMC2770028  PMID: 19835598
25.  Mental health related Internet use among psychiatric patients: a cross-sectional analysis 
BMC Psychiatry  2014;14(1):368.
Background
The Internet is of great importance in today’s health sector, as most Internet users utilize online functions for health related purposes. Concerning the mental health care sector, little data exist about the Internet use of psychiatric patients. It is the scope of this current study to analyze the quantity and pattern of Internet usage among mental health patients.
Methods
Patients from all services of the Department of Psychiatry at a university hospital were surveyed by completing a 29-item questionnaire. The data analysis included evaluation of frequencies, as well as group comparisons.
Results
337 patients participated in the survey, of whom 79.5% were Internet users. Social media was utilized by less than half of the users: social networks (47.8%), forums (19.4%), chats (18.7%), blogs (12.3%). 70.9% used the Internet for mental health related reasons. The contents accessed by the patients included: information on mental disorders (57.8%), information on medication (43.7%), search for mental health services (38.8%), platforms with other patients (19.8%) and platforms with mental health professionals (17.2%).
Differences in the pattern of use between users with low, medium and high frequency of Internet use were statistically significant for all entities of social media (p < 0.01), search for mental health services (p = 0.017) and usage of platforms with mental health professionals (p = 0. 048).
The analysis of differences in Internet use depending on the participants’ type of mental disorder revealed no statistically significant differences, with one exception. Regarding the Internet’s role in mental health care, the participants showed differing opinions: 36.2% believe that the Internet has or may have helped them in coping with their mental disorder, while 38.4% stated the contrary.
Conclusions
Most psychiatric patients are Internet users. Mental health related Internet use is common among patients, mainly for information seeking. The use of social media is generally less frequent. It varies significantly between different user types and was shown to be associated with high frequency of Internet use. The results illustrate the importance of the Internet in mental health related contexts and may contribute to the further development of mental health related online offers.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12888-014-0368-7) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/s12888-014-0368-7
PMCID: PMC4299476  PMID: 25599722
Internet; Psychiatry; Availability; Information seeking; Social media; Internet-based interventions

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