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Keywords:

  • Alzheimer's disease;
  • behaviour;
  • cybermedicine;
  • dementia;
  • eHealth;
  • Internet;
  • NHS Direct;
  • telemedicine

Abstract

Background

Internet websites and medical telephone helplines are relatively new and huge resources of medical information (‘cybermedicine’ and ‘telemedicine’, respectively) accessible to the general public without prior recourse to a doctor.

Study Objectives

To measure use of internet websites and of the NHS Direct telephone helpline as sources of medical information by patients and their families and/or carers attending a cognitive function clinic.

Design and Setting

Consecutive patients seen by one consultant neurologist over a six-month period in the Cognitive Function Clinic at the Walton Centre for Neurology and Neurosurgery, a regional neuroscience centre in Liverpool, UK.

Results

More than 50% of patients and families/carers had internet access; 27% had accessed relevant information, but none volunteered this. 82% expressed interest in, or willingness to access, websites with relevant medical information if these were suggested by the clinic doctor. Although 61% had heard of the NHS Direct telephone helpline, only 10% of all patients had used this service and few calls related to the reason for attendance at the Cognitive Function Clinic.

Conclusions

Internet access and use is common in a cognitive function clinic population. Since information from internet websites may shape health beliefs and expectations of patients and families/carers, appropriately or inappropriately, it may be important for the clinic doctor to inquire about these searches. Since most would use websites suggested by the doctor, a readiness to provide addresses for appropriate sites may prove helpful. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.