Patients want online access to health info

More than half of U.S. residents want to access health information via their physicians' websites, but few currently do so, according to findings published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

The survey included responses from more than 2,000 CVS pharmacy customers nationwide with at least one chronic condition in the household. They were asked about their use of email and Facebook to communicate with their physicians and their interest in other web-based health tools.

About 57 percent of survey respondents said they wanted to be able to use their physicians' sites to access medical information, but only 7 percent reported currently doing so. Forty-six percent of respondents were interested in using web-based tools for prescriptions, but just 7 percent reported currently doing so.

According to the survey, within the past six months, more than one-third of respondents reported contacting their doctor via email and 18 percent of respondents reported contacting their doctor via Facebook

The survey also showed patients were more likely to communicate with their doctors online if they cared for others, had chronic health conditions, reported a higher income, were non-white and were younger than 45 years old.

In addition, the survey found college graduates were the most likely to use Facebook to communicate with a doctor.

"The findings highlight the gap between patient interest for online communication and what physicians may currently provide," said study author Joy Lee of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a release. "Improving and accelerating the adoption of secure Web-messaging systems is a possible solution that addresses both institutional concerns and patient demand."