Introduction: The internet has been widely available with 18 million users in Saudi Arabia alone. The rapid growth of internet use has proven to effect healthcare. The main objective was to determine a correlation between health-related information (HRI) website use & healthcare facility visits in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.
Methodology: This study was designed as a survey-based cross sectional study involving the population of the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia. Data was collected by distributing a validated survey via an online survey application over a 4-month period. It consisted of demographic data and questions concerning internet use for HRI. Logistic regression was used to establish a correlation between internet use for HRI & healthcare facility visits and to see influencing factors.
Results: From the 1095 replies, 788 fit our inclusion criteria. 90% of our subjects have used the internet for HRI using mainly General medical websites 47.9%, Social Media 20.17%, Forums 19.16% and government websites 12.69%. We found 52.27% have used HRI websites to diagnose & treat their own medical conditions without professional medical advice. Visiting healthcare facilities after reading online HRI occurred 62.2% of the time, while the remaining did not due to being reassured of their condition. Outpatient clinics were most visited at 57.63% followed by ER & Pharmacy visits at 21.11% each. Those who have used the internet for HRI were more likely to visit a healthcare facility than those who haven't (OR(95%CI)) 2.05(1.24-3.36) (p-value<0.05).
Conclusions: There seems to be a correlation between HRI website use & healthcare facility visits, which is influenced by level of education & occupation status.
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