Health-Related Internet Use Among Otolaryngology Patients

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Objective:The association between online health resources use in specific otolaryngology patients is poorly understood. To better understand health-related Internet use by otolaryngology patients, we surveyed first-visit patients at academic and private practice clinics in Iowa.Methods:Data on socioeconomic status, access, and utilization of online resources were collected. Age distributions were compared by t test, and categorical variables were compared by chi-square analysis. Multivariate logistic regression was used to estimate odds ratios for association between independent variables (age, sex, educational attainment, otolaryngology subspecialty, etc).Results:Data showed that 8.7% lacked Internet access; an additional 5.4% reported access only in a public place or at work. Younger, more educated, and more urban patients reported higher rates of Internet access. Among university patients, patients seeing head and neck oncologists were most likely to report no Internet access (10.9%). Just over one-third of patients used the Internet to research their health condition prior to their appointment.Conclusions:Internet access was far from universal among this large cohort of otolaryngology outpatients. Head and neck cancer (HNC) patients report the least online access among all otolaryngology subspecialties. Providers should consider nonelectronic patient resources for older, more rural, less educated, and HNC patient populations as online/electronic methods of communication may not be accessible to these groups.

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