More than 200 doctors responded in November 2008 to the survey by the HON Foundation and the Medical Association of Geneva (Association des Médecins de Genève - AMG) on the use of the Internet as part of their medical practice and the usefulness of developing a tool for physicians to advise patients of their websites. Here is a brief summary of the results:
71% of physicians responded via the Internet and 29% by postal mail. One out of two doctors who responded via the Internet had already recommended websites to patients and this proportion is only 30% if one does not consider those who responded by mail.
3 to 4 physicians with an Internet connection to their offices would use an Internet tool for selecting sites for quality and trust by topic to advise their patients. Of these, nearly 70% would make use of already paper version of printed pre-selected sites according to a specific topic or disease to guide his/her patients.
Regarding the types of sites that could be offered to patients, sites of medical information and general or specialized sites of patient associations came first. The forums, sites of pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies were very rarely offered.
From these results, we can conclude that the Internet is a tool widely used by doctors in Geneva. Among those who responded by electronic form, there was a greater tendency to use or consider using the Internet in medical practice, in approximately 4 to 5 doctors. This may be because those who have already "integrated" Internet use in their habit of communication are more sensitive to the need and usefulness to guiding patients to appropriate and reliable information. There is also evidence that many doctors recommend health websites to their patients and would be more likely to do so if they had an adequate tool.
Regarding the preference for the "Internet tool" where it is possible to select sites as compared to a paper version of pre-selected sites, it could be explained by the ability to customize sites by adapting to specific situations and applications for each patient.
Finally, it is interesting to note that answers confirm our results obtained during our investigation into the use of the Internet in 2005 where 89% of patients wanted their healthcare professional to the provide them with sources of reliable health information and 71 % of physicians found it useful to guide patients to the health information trustworthy.
Based on the results of this survey, the Health On the Net Foundation will begin a pilot project in collaboration with physicians who wish to participate.
Health On the Net Foundation is the reference organization in the promotion and provision of reliable and quality health information. HON Foundation thanks all the participants in this investigation and the Medical Association of Geneva, without which this investigation would not have been possible.