The association between patient activation and accessing online health information: results from a national survey of US adults

Health Expect. 2015 Dec;18(6):3262-73. doi: 10.1111/hex.12316. Epub 2014 Dec 5.


Background: There are increasing opportunities for the public to access online health information, but attitudinal barriers to use are less well-known. Patient activation is associated with key health outcomes, but its relationship with using online health information is not known.

Objective: We examined the relationship between patient activation and the likelihood of accessing a range of different types of online health information in a nationally representative US sample.

Design: Cross-sectional nationally representative survey.

Setting and participants: Data were from an online (n = 2700) and random digit dial telephone survey (n = 700) of US adults (total n = 3400).

Main variables studied: Respondent characteristics and the Patient Activation Measure.

Main outcome measures: Self-reported access of five types of online health information in the past 12 months (online medical records, cost estimation tools, quality comparison tools, health information about a specific condition, preventive health information).

Results: Approximately, one-fifth of the sample had accessed their medical record (21.6%), treatment cost estimation tools (17.3%) and hospital and physician quality comparison tools (21.8%). Nearly half of the sample had accessed information about medical conditions or treatments (48.3%) or preventive health and well-being (45.9%). In multivariable analyses adjusted for participant characteristics, respondents with greater patient activation were more likely to have accessed all types of health information other than cost estimation tools.

Discussion and conclusions: Activated people are more likely to make use of online heath information. Increasing patient activation could improve the public's ability to participate in health care and personal health self-management by encouraging health information seeking.

Keywords: consumer activation; health information; patient activation; personal health records.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Consumer Health Information / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Health Records, Personal / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Information Seeking Behavior*
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Participation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality of Health Care
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States