202463 Medical Information on the Internet: Evaluation of Usage in College Students

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Carolyn S. Chyu , Department of Health: Science, Society, & Policy, Brandeis University, Somerville, MA
The Internet has become an important medium for seeking health information with advancing technological innovations. However, the scope of misinformation is vast and uncontrolled. The quality of information can be critical to health outcomes, particularly to patients who wish to seek information in privacy to self-diagnose and self-treat. The undergraduate college student demographic was investigated due to their ease of internet access on campus, but limited access to their own general physicians during the academic year. Online health information-seeking habits of 100 college students were studied using two cross-sectional questionnaires administered on a Massachusetts college campus. These surveys determined the proportion of students who sought medical information online, the types of websites searched, their assessments of their experiences, and any subsequent healthcare-seeking actions taken. The surveys revealed that 90 students (90%) had used the internet for medical information in their lifetime. Fifty students (56%) used self-help sites and 25 students (28%) used online encyclopedia entries. After their most recent query, 50 students (56%) found the information obtained to be “somewhat accurate.” Fifty-five students (61%) shared the information with others and 13 (14%) discussed the information with a health care professional. The habit of searching for medical information online is highly prevalent among college students. Those that do seek information online tend to share this information with others but rarely discuss findings with a healthcare professional. This research suggests that the healthcare professionals should provide students a list of reliable medical websites since websites are the preferred source of information.

Learning Objectives:
1) Describe the habits of college students who consult the internet for medical information. 2) Discuss the influence of online misinformation on health outcomes. 3) Design strategies in controlling college students' exposure to health misinformation.

Keywords: Health Information, Students

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a Brandeis college student conducting a senior honors thesis on a topic I have had no previous engagements with prior to this year.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.