The prepared patient: information seeking of online support group members before their medical appointments

J Health Commun. 2012;17(8):960-78. doi: 10.1080/10810730.2011.650828. Epub 2012 May 10.


The authors examined online support group members' reliance on their Internet community and other online and offline health resources as they prepare for a scheduled medical appointment. Adult members of an online support group (N = 505) with an upcoming medical appointment completed an online questionnaire that included measures of illness perceptions, control preference, trust in the physician, and eHealth literacy; a checklist of actions one could take to acquire health information; and demographic questions. A factor analysis identified 4 types of information seeking: reliance on the online support group, use of other online health resources, use of offline health resources, and personal network contacts. Previsit information seeking on the Internet was extensive and typically augmented with offline information. Use of online health resources was highest among those who believed they had control over their illness, who attributed many symptoms and negative emotions to it, and who were more eHealth literate. Reliance on the online support group was highest among those who believed they had personal control over their illness, expected their condition to persist, and attributed negative emotions to it. Trust in the physician and preferences for involvement in decision making were unrelated to online information seeking. Most respondents intended to ask their physician questions and request clinical resources based on online information.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Diagnostic Self Evaluation
  • Female
  • Health Literacy
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Internal-External Control
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation / psychology*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Self-Help Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors
  • Trust
  • Young Adult