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Patient attitudes regarding online sources of health information


Health literacy, generally defined as an individual's skill in obtaining and understanding information related to their health, has been shown to have significant impact on patient outcomes. Low health literacy is associated with higher rates of hospitalization and health care resource utilization, higher prevalence and severity of chronic disease, and worsened global measures of health including mortality. Poor health literacy is prevalent in the United States; as many as 36 percent of the population demonstrates limited health literacy. Rates are higher in certain subgroups such as the elderly, minorities, and those of low education or socioeconomic status. Given the wide prevalence and far-ranging effects on long-term health outcomes, efforts to improve health literacy nationally clearly offer significant benefits across the population. This study surveyed ambulatory patients at four clinic sites within the UCSD health care system. Patients were offered participation in the survey based on availability while waiting for clinical appointments; no compensation or other reward for participation was offered. The survey included ten different platforms or categories of online source; for each source patients were asked to rate how often they used it, their level of trust in the source, and degree to which that source ultimately impacted their health care decisions. The order that sources were listed within survey questions was varied between copies of the survey. Responses were analyzed using repeated measures ANVOA to establish the significance of variation in responses for each measure.

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