Pennekamp PH, Diedrich O, Schmitt O, Kraft CN.
Z Orthop Ihre Grenzgeb. 2006; 144(5):459-63.

The Internet is a rich source of medical information. An enormous amount of information about orthopaedic conditions is available on the world wide web (www). Demographics of internet access and attitudes towards the internet differ depending on cultures, an educational background, the facility to access the internet, and the gender of the individual.

The aim of the study was to ascertain the degree of orthopaedic patients using the internet as a source for information. 450 consecutive patients attending the outpatient department for the first time filled out an anonymous questionnaire. The questions included clinical and socio-demographic data, the availability/access of computers and also the use/interpretation of medical information available on the www.

402 questionnaires were completed. 54 % of these patients had access to the internet. Of the remaining patients without internet access, 19 % planned to install it within the near future. Of the patients who had internet access 68% used it regularly with regard to queries concerning their health and well-being. 38 % had consulted the internet about their specific orthopaedic ailment prior to seeking advice in the clinic. 72% of the patients using www were below 40 years. The use of the www over the age of 40 years was only 49%. 86 % considered the information obtained over the www as helpful or very helpful. 85 % would recommend other patients to use the internet for information concerning their orthopaedic complaint. 65 % of all patients objected to an orthopaedic on-line consultation via internet.

The use of the www is particularly higher in younger, well-educated male patients. More and more patients are willing to undergo internet-based consultation. The increased use of medical web sites by patients raises important issues regarding the need for quality control, and does impact significantly upon the surgeon-patient relationship. The development of academic-based websites should be encouraged, as these offer the most useful information.