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November 29, 2011 / Christian M.

Study Finds Decline in Patients Seeking Consumer Health Info

The Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) released a new report last week on health information seeking behavior in America between 2007 and 2010. Here are some of the results from their study:

  • The number of adults seeking health information from a source other than  a doctor dropped from 56% to 50%.
  • Use of print resources for health information decreased from 33% to 18%
  • Use of internet health resources slightly increased from 31% to 33%.
  • Health information seeking is higher among the more educated. People with graduate degrees are twice as likely to look for health information as those with only high school diplomas.
  • Those ages 65 and older are least likely to seek health information, even though they usually have the most health problems.

For more information, read the full report here


This reminds me of a discussion we had in my Health Sciences Literature course. The professor asked if our doctors give us informational brochures or tell us where to find information online for our health condition. Out of a class of about twenty, only a couple of people had experienced this. My professor was very surprised. She said this should be happening more often. It is a given that medical librarians will promote health information resources (depending on where they work). It would be helpful for clinicians to be doing the same.

This past spring, I had to go to the emergency room for a health issue, and the specialist who diagnosed me did provide some consumer health information. She explained my situation, and then went and printed off two articles from an internet resource. I know one was from the UpToDate website. She also briefly explained how to navigate UpToDate and find the patient-centered articles on my own.

Public librarians can also promote health literacy. The National Network of Libraries of Medicine has a page for public libraries and community organizations to help them get started in providing consumer health information. The Medical Library Association offers a Consumer Health Information Specialization Program  that is open to medical librarians, public librarians, and allied health professionals. You can take up to three years to complete the program.


Besides a possible lack of awareness of resources, there are also the issues of literacy and education level which I hope to discuss in another post soon. I recently wrote a paper about the information needs and user behavior of low-literacy patients. It was a very interesting topic.


Does your doctor give you, or tell you about consumer health resources?

If you are working in the health sciences, what are some ways that medical librarians can partner with private-practice clinicians to assist with patient education?



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