Information at your fingertips

Angela Hart, Flis Henwood, S. Wyatt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, there has certainly been an increase in the use of the internet in relation to health. More patients and more healthcare practitioners are using it to find out about health conditions, and to help them decide on the best treatment options. And some studies have shown that people with rare conditions have found the internet particularly useful, both as a source of health information and as a way of helping them get in touch with other people in similar situations. This article is mainly about patients’ use of the internet. Broadly speaking, there are two main approaches to thinking about the consequences of patients using the internet. Optimists argue that patients will be empowered by doing so and that having information from the internet at their fingertips will help patients come to a decision about their health difficulties, and to be on a more equal footing with healthcare practitioners. Pessimists suggest that patients will be overwhelmed by the volume of information they download, and that they won’t understand whether or not it is accurate and reliable. Our research study, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Medical Research Council, aimed to get behind these debates to look at what happens in real life. We explored how a group of around 50 mid-life patients, some women and some men, actually used the internet in their daily lives. We then asked healthcare practitioners what they thought about their patients using the internet. Our study was about the use of the internet by patients with quite common health conditions
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)32-33
Number of pages2
JournalPublic Service Review: Health
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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