Use of the internet by patients attending specialist clinics in Sri Lanka: a cross sectional study
Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Ruhuna, Karapitiya, Galle, Sri Lanka
BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making 2009, 9:12 doi:10.1186/1472-6947-9-12Published: 12 February 2009
The internet is a relatively new medium of disseminating health information. Studies on Internet usage for health information are mainly done in developed countries and very few studies have been carried out in developing countries.
The Internet usage of patients who were attending specialist clinics in Teaching Hospital Karapitiya and Southern Hospital in Galle, Sri Lanka was investigated. The study was carried out on the following specialities; General Medicine, Pediatrics, General Surgery and Cardiothoracic surgery. Information was collected using an investigator-administered questionnaire while patients were waiting for a consultation.
Three hundred and fifty five patients (or guardians in the Pediatric clinic) participated in the study. One hundred seventy two (48.3%) participants have heard about the Internet. There was a relationship between awareness of the Internet and age, educational level and the clinic attended. There was no difference of awareness depending on the gender or the hospital. Only three participants (0.97%) have used the Internet to find information about their disease conditions. Close relatives searched the Internet about the conditions of two participants. Altogether, the Internet was used to search information on the disease condition of five participants (1.4%).
Very low usage of the Internet for health information retrieval in this study is probably due to low awareness of the Internet and low educational level. This low usage of Internet and the associated reasons shown in this study can be generalized to Sri Lanka and probably to other low-income countries that have lower educational level than Sri Lanka.