Use of the Internet is common among patients with cancer and their companions. However, little is known about patterns of use of print or telephone-based resources amidst growing Internet utilization, nor is it known whether different types of information are sought from electronic compared with print media. It is not clear as to whether patients and their companions differ in their patterns of content seeking.
A survey was developed to evaluate the use of electronic and nonelectronic informational resources by patients and their companions. During a 10-week period, this questionnaire was administered to 443 outpatients and 124 paired companions attending an urban academic cancer center.
In this cohort, 64% of patients and 76% of companions were computer owners, with home Internet access indicated by 58% and 68%, respectively. Use of the Internet to obtain cancer-related information was reported by 44% of patients and 60% of companions. Print resources were used by 79% of patients and 83% of companions, with telephone resources used by 22% and 23%, respectively. The majority of Internet users also read print content (85%), whereas one-half of print users did not access data electronically (52%). Topic areas sought via print and the Internet were similar, with the exception of nutrition-related information, which was more commonly sought in print texts. There was a high rate of concordance between patient and companion use of both electronic and nonelectronic resources.
Despite recent publicity and scrutiny focusing on the quality of Internet health care content, print products remain the most common source of information sought by patients with cancer. Future investigation should focus on the quality of print products used by patients. Cancer 2004. © 2004 American Cancer Society.