Background It is well known that the more education patients have about their diseases, the better equipped they are to take responsibility for their personal health. The American College of Physicians (ACP) recently joined with the National Library of Medicine in a project called "Information Rx " in an effort to help physicians direct their patients to reliable health information free of commercial bias at the Web site MedlinePlus.gov.
Objective To evaluate the usefulness of the MedlinePlus.gov site as perceived by patients who were referred to the site by their internal medicine physician.
Design Questionnaire consisting of 27 items given to interested patients.
Setting University-based primary care internal medicine practice in northeastern Tennessee.
Patients 37 volunteer internal medicine patients.
Results The survey revealed that while most participants (68%) routinely look up medical information, only 49% of referred patients had used MedlinePlus.gov. Of those who used the site, 89% were satisfied with the information they found there, 89% would use MedlinePlus.gov again, and most patients (56%) would recommend the site to others.
Limitations Small sample size, high percentage of respondents had not used the site yet, and lack of extensive demographic data on participants.
Conclusions Patients who used the MedlinePlus.gov site at the recommendation of their physician found it easy to use and informative. They reported being likely to use the site again and to refer others to it as well. Internists may find this free Internet source to be helpful in educating their computer-literate patients about their chronic diseases.
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