Soliciting and Responding to Patients' Questions about Diabetes Through Online Sources

Crangle, Colleen; Bradley, Colin; Carlin, Paul; Esterhay, Robert; Harper, Roy; Kearney, Patricia; Lorig, Kate; McCarthy, Vera; McTear, Michael; Tuttle, Mark; Wallace, Joanthan and Savage, Eileen (2017). Soliciting and Responding to Patients' Questions about Diabetes Through Online Sources. Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics., 19(3) pp. 194–199.



When patients cannot get answers from health professionals or retain the information given, increasingly they search online for answers, with limited success. Researchers from the United States, Ireland, and the United Kingdom explored this problem for patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). In 2014, patients attending an outpatient clinic (UK) were asked to submit questions about diabetes. Ten questions judged representative of different types of patient concerns were selected by the researchers and submitted to search engines within trusted and vetted websites in the United States, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. Two researchers independently assessed if answers could be found in the three top-ranked documents returned at each website. The 2014 search was repeated in June, 2016, examining the two top-ranked documents returned. One hundred and sixty-four questions were collected from 120 patients during 12 outpatient clinics. Most patients had T2DM (95%). Most questions were about diabetes (N = 155) with the remainder related to clinic operation (N = 9). Of the questions on diabetes, 152 were about T2DM. The 2014 assessment found no adequate answers to the questions in 90 documents (10 questions, 3 websites, 3 top documents). In the 2016 assessment, 1 document out of 60 (10 questions, 3 websites, 2 top documents) provided an adequate answer relating to 1 of the 10 questions. Available online sources of information do not provide answers to questions from patients with diabetes. Our results highlight the urgent need to develop novel ways of providing answers to patient questions about T2DM.

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