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

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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.


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.


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).


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.

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