Reasons for and predictors of patients' online health information seeking following a medical appointment

Na Li, Sharon Orrange, Richard L Kravitz, Robert A Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Little is known about patients' online health information seeking after a primary care or specialist medical visit.

OBJECTIVES: To examine predictors of patients' post-visit online health information seeking, reasons for seeking information and information sources used.

METHODS: Survey of online support group members (N = 311) with a recent medical visit. Measures included eHealth literacy, patient-centred communication (PCC), post-visit changes in worry, online health information seeking and reasons for seeking information. Analyses were based on descriptive statistics and logistic regression.

RESULTS: Eighty per cent of patients went online post-visit. The most common source used was others' forum posts (91%). The most common reason was curiosity (68%). Dissatisfaction with the physician's performance motivated information seeking for 40% of respondents. In a multivariate analysis, post-visit online health information seeking was highest among patients who were more eHealth literate [odds ratio (OR) = 1.73 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.11, 2.71), P = 0.016], gave lower PCC ratings to their providers [OR = 0.45 (0.22, 0.90), P = 0.024] and experienced increased worry due to the visit [OR = 5.19 (1.36, 19.82), P = 0.016]. eHealth literate patients made greater use of specialized medical information (e.g. online medical journal articles) than less literate patients. Primary care physicians were rated as more patient centred than specialists. Visit-induced worry led to greater use of interpersonal channels (e.g. e-mailing other forum members). Patients who saw their doctor as less patient-centred were more likely to go online due to dissatisfaction with doctor performance.

CONCLUSION: Online support forum members often turn to the Internet for health information following their medical visits. Their information seeking is shaped by patient, relational and visit factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)550-556
Number of pages7
JournalFamily Practice
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • Changes in worry
  • eHealth literacy
  • information seeking
  • Internet
  • patient-centred communication.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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