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Qualitative study: patients' enduring concerns about discussing internet use in general practice consultations

Qualitative study: patients' enduring concerns about discussing internet use in general practice consultations
Qualitative study: patients' enduring concerns about discussing internet use in general practice consultations

Objectives: to examine patients' accounts of their use of the internet before seeing a general practitioner (GP) using thematic analysis of semistructured interviews. 

Design: qualitative semistructured interview study with transcripts analysed thematically. 

Setting: primary care patients consulting with 10 GPs working at 7 GP practices of varying sizes and at a range of locations around London and the Southeast of England. 

Participants: 28 adult patients: 16 women and 12 men ranging in age from 18 to 75 from a range of self-defined ethnic backgrounds. Participants were selected based on instances when the patients reported having used the internet before the consultation, when patients referred to the internet in the consultation or when the physician used the internet or made reference to it during the consultation. 

Results: patients report that they can find health information online that they believe is reliable and helpful for both themselves and their GP. However, they report uncertainty about how to share internet-based findings and reluctance to disclose their efforts at researching health issues online for fear of appearing disrespectful or interfering with the flow of the consultation. 

Conclusions: despite the democratisation of access to information about health due via the internet, patients continue to experience their use of the internet for health information as a sensitive and potentially problematic topic. The onus may well be on GPs to raise the likelihood (without judgement) that patients will have looked things up before consulting and invite them to talk about what they found.

primary care, qualitative research, world wide web technology
2044-6055
Cuteanu, Anita
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Seguin, Maureen
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Ziebland, Sue
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Pope, Catherine
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Leydon, Geraldine
c5cdaff5-0fa1-4d38-b575-b97c2892ec40
Barnes, Rebecca
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Murray, Elizabeth
cb300780-9041-44af-9ae5-e13531eb23b8
Atherton, Helen
bf8e3878-c8f2-487c-96c4-a6fc90ba95bb
Stevenson, Fiona
68366278-ef64-41e6-a7b2-099f1971ba8e
Cuteanu, Anita
7ae1daa0-ff9e-4ee1-a368-eaa1c7adc9a2
Seguin, Maureen
51582489-e9d0-4e32-a72c-b0fa6a0bd4f8
Ziebland, Sue
9a00bdc5-7b90-4dae-a503-1799f5e80b17
Pope, Catherine
1de78791-009f-41f0-8b9f-6d3a9d2ce412
Leydon, Geraldine
c5cdaff5-0fa1-4d38-b575-b97c2892ec40
Barnes, Rebecca
5f2ab8e7-129c-4ca2-8022-dc371e740597
Murray, Elizabeth
cb300780-9041-44af-9ae5-e13531eb23b8
Atherton, Helen
bf8e3878-c8f2-487c-96c4-a6fc90ba95bb
Stevenson, Fiona
68366278-ef64-41e6-a7b2-099f1971ba8e

Cuteanu, Anita, Seguin, Maureen, Ziebland, Sue, Pope, Catherine, Leydon, Geraldine, Barnes, Rebecca, Murray, Elizabeth, Atherton, Helen and Stevenson, Fiona (2021) Qualitative study: patients' enduring concerns about discussing internet use in general practice consultations. BMJ Open, 11 (4), [e047508]. (doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2020-047508).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Objectives: to examine patients' accounts of their use of the internet before seeing a general practitioner (GP) using thematic analysis of semistructured interviews. 

Design: qualitative semistructured interview study with transcripts analysed thematically. 

Setting: primary care patients consulting with 10 GPs working at 7 GP practices of varying sizes and at a range of locations around London and the Southeast of England. 

Participants: 28 adult patients: 16 women and 12 men ranging in age from 18 to 75 from a range of self-defined ethnic backgrounds. Participants were selected based on instances when the patients reported having used the internet before the consultation, when patients referred to the internet in the consultation or when the physician used the internet or made reference to it during the consultation. 

Results: patients report that they can find health information online that they believe is reliable and helpful for both themselves and their GP. However, they report uncertainty about how to share internet-based findings and reluctance to disclose their efforts at researching health issues online for fear of appearing disrespectful or interfering with the flow of the consultation. 

Conclusions: despite the democratisation of access to information about health due via the internet, patients continue to experience their use of the internet for health information as a sensitive and potentially problematic topic. The onus may well be on GPs to raise the likelihood (without judgement) that patients will have looked things up before consulting and invite them to talk about what they found.

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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 12 April 2021
Published date: 28 April 2021
Additional Information: Funding Information: Funding The HaRI project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research School for Primary Care Research (Award/Grant Number 284). National Health Service (NHS) costs are covered via the Local Clinical Research Network. The present study has received funding from the Laidlaw Foundation. Publisher Copyright: © Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.
Keywords: primary care, qualitative research, world wide web technology

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 453443
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/453443
ISSN: 2044-6055
PURE UUID: e6862575-b838-40f3-aad4-a776c645946e
ORCID for Geraldine Leydon: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0001-5986-3300

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 17 Jan 2022 17:37
Last modified: 28 Apr 2022 01:55

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Contributors

Author: Anita Cuteanu
Author: Maureen Seguin
Author: Sue Ziebland
Author: Catherine Pope
Author: Rebecca Barnes
Author: Elizabeth Murray
Author: Helen Atherton
Author: Fiona Stevenson

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