Internet use by patients in an inflammatory bowel disease specialty clinic



Background: Patient education is known to improve satisfaction in and participation with treatment. A careful assessment of internet use by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patients to gather information has not been reported. Our aim was to evaluate internet use to gather general health- and disease-specific information in patients presenting to an IBD clinic.

Methods: A cross-sectional anonymous survey using a convenience sample of patients (N = 175) at a tertiary-care institution's IBD clinic was performed.

Results: In all, 169 surveys (97%) were returned for analysis. The median age was 46 (17–84), 83 men and 81 women (5 missing). In known IBD patients (87%), 85 (50%) had Crohn's disease and 62 (37%) ulcerative colitis; 81% of patients had home internet access. The most common information sources were: gastroenterologists (59%), internet (54%), and primary-care physicians (54%). Ninety-two patients (54%) used the internet to gather IBD-specific information. Age-specific use (<40, 40–65, >65) was 73%, 48%, 37.5%, respectively. There was a significant positive association between level of education and internet use (P < 0.0001), but not with income. Internet sites most commonly visited were organization- or institution-specific. Factors that most influenced a user's choice of an internet site were noncommercial status (59%) and ease of use (53%). The majority of patients (57%) rated internet information “trustworthy” to “very trustworthy.”

Conclusions: Over half of patients in an IBD clinic used the internet to gather IBD-specific information. Use was inversely associated with age and positively correlated with education level. There was no income association. These findings suggest web-based IBD information may become increasingly important in the future.

(Inflamm Bowel Dis 2007)