Internet use by orthopaedic outpatients - current trends and practices

Australas Med J. 2012;5(12):633-8. doi: 10.4066/AMJ.2012.1530. Epub 2012 Dec 31.


Background: The e-patient revolution increasingly enables patients to self diagnose and self educate, influencing decisions affecting their health. This poses a challenge for both patients and health care professionals due to the highly variable and often poor quality information available on the internet.

Aims: This study aims to measure the current internet usage in patients attending outpatient clinics, in both a public and private setting. All patients were recruited whilst consulting orthopaedic surgeons.

Method: We developed a 29 question survey which asked questions related to patient demographics, general internet usage and internet usage related to the patient's orthopaedic condition. Patients were recruited for the public cohort during Western Health outpatient clinics and for the private cohort during private surgical consults in the waiting rooms of eight surgeons' clinics.

Results: A total of 400 surveys were completed; 200 in both the private and public cohorts of the study. Of all surveyed participants, 79% (n = 316) had access to the internet. Of people who had access to the internet 65.2% (n = 206) used the internet to investigate their orthopaedic condition. 29.6% (n = 61) of participants asked their surgeon questions related to information they had read on the internet. Of patients that had access to the internet 36.1% (n = 114) used the internet to research their surgeon.

Conclusion: Patients are commonly using the internet as an information resource, in spite of the highly variable quality of this information. This highlights the need for patient information websites which reflect the current standards of clinical practice.

Keywords: Internet use; Online medical information; Patient’s awareness; orthopaedics.