Many people with obesity who are considering bariatric surgery use the Internet to find information on the procedure, which may subsequently play a role in their decision-making, according to a study published in Obesity Surgery.
“In the last decade, the diffusion of the Internet on a large scale has dramatically changed access to knowledge. In this context, medical information, simplified and freely accessible, has been particularly demanded by Internet users,” researchers wrote.
In a questionnaire, the researchers polled 212 bariatric surgery candidates about their access to the Internet, the usefulness and trustworthiness of information found on the Internet, verification of the information and how this information affected their decision-making.
Of all participants, 95.1% had access to the Internet, with 77.8% having researched bariatric surgery online. A majority (81.4%) were mainly interested in surgical techniques as well as patient experiences (72.3%). Websites affiliated with public hospitals or edited by other patients appeared to be most popular, the researchers reported.
Many participants assessed the accountability of information found on the Internet through discussion with a general practitioner (83.0%) or family and friends (46.8%). Only 16.2% did not trust what they read about the topic on the Internet as a whole.
The researchers also noted that the information found on the Internet may have influenced participants’ decision-making, with one in four opting to undergo bariatric surgery primarily based on this information. However, in 77.8% and 51.7% of cases, participants also took into account discussion with the general practitioner and hospital reputation, respectively.
“Health professionals should neither ignore nor show disdain for health information online as the Internet has already become an important source of knowledge in patients’ decision-making process,” the researchers concluded.
“We should instead create or promote independent high-quality health care Web sites and integrate them into discussions with our patients.”