Parents find useful information on the internet about their child's surgery

08/11/05

CHICAGO – Parents of children scheduled to undergo outpatient otolaryngology procedures turned to the Internet to learn more about their child's medical condition and used the information in making medical decisions, according to a study in the August issue of Archives of Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Although the Internet has become an increasingly important source of health and medical information, how Internet information may influence parent's medical decisions for their children is not known, according to background information in the article. Physicians are often not prepared to discuss information obtained from the Internet or to direct parents to reliable sites.

Maj. Mark Boston, U.S.A.F., M.C., F.S., of the 56th Medical Group, Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., and colleagues surveyed parents of children undergoing routine otolaryngology procedures, such as tonsillectomy or placement of ear tubes, as outpatients at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center during September 2003 and January 2004. Parents were asked questions about their access to the Internet and whether they had searched for information on their child's medical condition and/or surgery, whether they found the information understandable and helpful and whether the information they found on the Internet influenced medical decisions about their child's treatment.

Of 204 surveyed parents, 170 (83 percent) had Internet access. Of these 170 parents, 83 (48 percent) used the Internet to look for information about their child's diagnosis and/or surgical procedure, the authors report. Nearly all (92 percent) found the information regarding the medical condition was understandable and 90 percent found the information helpful. Most (67 percent) said the Internet information influenced the medical decisions they made on behalf of their child. Only 35 parents (47 percent) discussed the information they obtained from the Internet with their child's surgeon.

"In conclusion, nearly all parents who used the Internet to search for medical information about their child's outpatient otolaryngology procedure found the information to be understandable, helpful, and influential," the authors write. "Otolaryngologists need to be aware of the content of specific medical Web sites and be able to direct and discuss parent and patient use of the Internet as a medical information source."

Source: Eurekalert & others

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