Background: With online health information becoming increasingly popular among patients, concerns have been raised about the impact of patients' Internet health information-seeking behavior on their relationship with physicians. Therefore, it is pertinent to understand the influence of online health information on the patient-physician relationship.
Objective: Our objective was to systematically review existing research on patients' Internet health information seeking and its influence on the patient-physician relationship.
Methods: We systematically searched PubMed and key medical informatics, information systems, and communication science journals covering the period of 2000 to 2015. Empirical articles that were in English were included. We analyzed the content covering themes in 2 broad categories: factors affecting patients' discussion of online findings during consultations and implications for the patient-physician relationship.
Results: We identified 18 articles that met the inclusion criteria and the quality requirement for the review. The articles revealed barriers, facilitators, and demographic factors that influence patients' disclosure of online health information during consultations and the different mechanisms patients use to reveal these findings. Our review also showed the mechanisms in which online information could influence patients' relationship with their physicians.
Conclusions: Results of this review contribute to the understanding of the patient-physician relationship of Internet-informed patients. Our main findings show that Internet health information seeking can improve the patient-physician relationship depending on whether the patient discusses the information with the physician and on their prior relationship. As patients have better access to health information through the Internet and expect to be more engaged in health decision making, traditional models of the patient-provider relationship and communication strategies must be revisited to adapt to this changing demographic.
Keywords: Internet; health information; information seeking; physician-patient relations.
©Sharon Swee-Lin Tan, Nadee Goonawardene. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 19.01.2017.