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These reports were written by a team of local volunteers: Angela Merino, Assina Bounis, Celia Boyer, Eric Bianchi, Irčne Butor, Julian Albert Kilker and Melisa Makzume. The reports summarise information for people not able to attend the sessions. Their comprehensiveness and accuracy are not guaranteed. For more information, please contact the presenters directly. Their e-mail addresses are available at

Track: 8: Health

Panel : Health Care and Current Internet Development

By Celia Boyer, 23 July 1998

How the Internet is used ?

Mark Selby

Today’s question about the Internet is "who is using it, and for what?". This question is almost as old as the Web itself. The evolution of the Internet will continue if information providers feature and understand the user’s need. The Health On the Net Foundation (HON - ) has conducted surveys on the "Use of the Internet for medical/health purposes" to assess the value, level and ease of the Net. The HON Foundation pioneered the Web-based survey of the health/medical field, being the first to conduct a survey in February 1997 dedicated to the medical and health domain on the Internet.

The May/June 1998 survey is the third one conducted on the usage of the Internet for the health/medical purposes with two new questions concerning the language and the type Internet technology used to get the information (E-mail, Web, Discussion list and newsgroups). The survey was available on-line on the HON web server. The survey has been kept simple and clear with statements and answers such as strongly agree, agree, neither agree or disagree, disagree and strongly disagree. The statements are the following :

* I have found useful medical/health information on the Internet

* I have found useful medical/health information on the Internet in my primary language

* It is easy to find useful medical/health information on the Internet

* Doctors in my country are actively using the Internet

* Nurses in my country are actively using the Internet

* The quality of medical/health information on the Internet needs to improve

* Patient anonymity on the Internet is essential


93% of the respondents have found useful information, which is very encouraging. The new question concerning the information in my primary language was extremely interesting with 83% agreeing. These results confirm the utility of the Internet and the quality of the information existing on this medium and a diversification of the languages of the content linked to a diversification and an increase of the other countries on the Internet.

68 % find information easily on the Internet against 60% in the previous survey in August to September 1997 (Aug/Sept 97 Survey conducted by the HON Foundation). Improvement of this number can be related to the knowledge of the user knowing better how to find information and also the effort made by search engines and directories providing web site links.

The results of responses concerning the fact that doctors and nurses are using the Internet are similar to the Aug/Sep 97 Survey but this time more patients responded to this survey (64 % against 40%).

For only 53% of respondents the quality of medical and health information on the Internet needs to improve, a lost of 10 % compared to the previous survey with 64 %.

80% are concerned about the importance of patient anonymity on the Internet. No big change compared with the previous survey.

Users access the Internet primarily from home, with 73%. About 42 % are medical professionals looking for information, 53% for their patients and 68 % for themselves.

The full results are available on-line from the HON Foundation home page at

To conclude on this data Mark Selby believes that the Internet is a critical tool for sharing information and helping communication for patients seeking information in stress as well as for medical professionals for their continuing educational process.

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