Study examines how patients with diabetes search for and use health information

For the nearly 24 million Americans living with diabetes, self-management is a critical component to controlling the condition and involves staying abreast of medical developments, new drugs and treatments and information on diet, nutrition and exercise.

“As the movement toward patient-centered care and shared decision making accelerates, it is vital to understand how patients use information to self-manage chronic diseases like diabetes,” said lead investigator Daniel R. Longo, Sc.D., director of research for the VCU Department of Family Medicine and co-director of the Ambulatory Care Outcomes Research Network.

In a study, published online in the July issue of the Annals of Family Medicine, the VCU team, together with researchers from the University of Missouri, examined patient preferences in seeking, receiving and incorporating health information to manage their conditions.

Forty-six patients participated in a series of nine focus groups that identified a diverse range of information sources, including popular media, the Internet, family and friends and health care professionals.

“This study identifies the wide range of information sources used by these patients,” Longo said. “However, when patients find all these sources confusing or contradictory they rely on their physician and other health care professionals to make sense of this information and media explosion.

“Further, the study identifies the role of interpersonal communication with others such as family and friends to manage their chronic condition,” he said.

Based on these findings, Longo and his colleagues enhanced the currently accepted health information behavior model to illustrate a patient’s nonlinear approach to getting information. The revised model includes interplay of active seeking and passive receipt of information and considers influencers such as the relationships with family and friends and health professionals.

“The model takes into account the various information sources patients actively seek, those they receive as they go through their activities of daily living, such as viewing a TV talk show or reading a popular magazine or surfing the web,” Longo said. “It also identifies the various degrees of use patients used this information over time.”

This work was supported by a research development grant from the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Missouri.

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