Dr. Ronan Kavanagh

Internet usage in Irish Medical patients – A survey

In Uncategorized on January 19, 2012 at 5:21 pm

As we are on the verge of moving over to an online appointment booking system and extending the use of texting to patients in our practice, we recently undertook a  survey of our patients. Over the last week, patients in our practice have been patiently completing questionnaires regarding their use of mobile phones, texting and internet usage. Thanks to all of those who took the time to do the survey.

These results apply to a special and limited section of the population and may not be applicable outside of the setting of a private rheumatology outpatient clinic and should be interpreted in this light.

We surveyed all patients presenting to the outpatient clinic of two rheumatologists (Dr. Adrian Gibbs and Dr. Ronan Kavanagh) over a one week period. 124 patients completed the survey.

The patients surveyed are that bit older than the general population (Median 57 yrs vs 34.8% nationally), more likely to be female (2/3 are women vs 50% in the general population) a bit more affluent than average (there is some data to suggest that internet usage is higher in those with higher incomes).

Even allowing for the fact that our patient population is higher than that in the general population, the results of this survey show that mobile phone, texting and internet usage is high amongst patients attending our clinic.

Here’s a summary of the results.

  • 96% of our patients have a mobile phone
  • 84% are able to send and receive text messages
  • 72% of our patients have internet access
  • 70% of our patients who do not have internet access indicated that they a family member who accessed it on their behalf
  • 41% of our patients are on Facebook and 18% on Linkedin and only 5.3% have Twitter accounts
  • 83% of our patients send or receive emails daily or a few times a week
  • 79% have researched a product or service online
  • 83% have looked online for information about a specific disease
  • 70% have looked online for information about medical treatment or procedure.
  • 59% have looked online for information regarding health insurance
  • 56% of those with a Facebook account post updates daily or a few times a week and 44% post rarely of never post.
  • 88% of those who had visited the Arthritis Ireland Website indicated that they thought it was either good or excellent
  • None of our patients have ever posted an online review of a doctor and only 2.5% have posted a review of a hospital online.

The majority of our patients have a mobile phone. Whereas 84% of patients indicated that they are able to receive AND send messages, it is possible that had we asked the question in two parts, there would have been greater percentage of patients who knew how to receive / read text messages.

The internet usage in our patients is very similar to that in the general population. 72% of our patients use the internet and 69% of Irish households have internet access. Only 41% of patients who use the internet indicated that they have a Facebook account compared with the 69% of Irish internet users (or 45.3% of the Irish population). This probably reflects the older average age of our patients. Also of those who have a Facebook account 25% rarely post and 20% never post messages (figures are similar for Linkedin users with 51% posting daily or a few times a week).

Many of our patients have researched a product or service online and most have looked online for information about a specific disease,treatment or procedure but very few patients have looked at doctor or hospital ratings websites and none of them have rated their doctor in an online ratings site.  Irish internet users, it would seem, are internet ‘Lurkers’ and like to watch rather than post updates or comments.

Overall, the results of this survey suggest a high proportion of our patients will be in a position to avail of an online booking system when put in place. Whereas we have had a text reminder service for all outpatient appointments for the last few years, until now we did not know what percentage of our patients might be able to avail of it. We are now going to extend this to annual recall appointments and where possible send  dual reminders by text and email.

Summary graphs appear below

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  1. Thanks for this, Ronan. Do you mind emailing me a copy of the survey & we might be able to run it in our clinics. Give you a Sydney perspective!

  2. That far more of our patients are at Facebook as compared to at Twitter is a phenomenon that was also noticed in the Netherlands recently (do not have exact reference). It was an eye-opener for me (I have a twitter pilot but it ahs only been used by 5 or 6 patients in 10 months times, I guess twitter is not where the majority of my patients are….(Personally I am not such a big fan of Facebook though, don’t know why, never liked the look and feel too much, but Google+, a nice mix of twitter and Facebook might change that)

  3. Thanks Ronan, did you ask about mobile internet at all? We are really interested in how people might interact with health care services whilst they are out and about in their everyday life. Gives you the opportunity to record symptoms / other health parameters as they happen rather than waiting till you get home or to the next clinic, also access information in a timely manner.

    • Thanks Daniel. We asked about the way in which patients were accessing the internet but not about mobile apps (but about 1/3 had a phone / pda / iphone or android device). Let me dig out the slide for you and I’ll add it to the gallery of pictures at the end of the post later.

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