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Arch Hellen Med, 24(5), September-October 2007, 440-457


Internet use for health and illness in Greece. Preliminary results of a European study on eHealth consumer trends

1Institute of Computer Science, FORTH, Heraklion, Crete
2̀etron Analysis, Athens
3Inserm U 750, Cermes, Villejuif, France

OBJECTIVE The aim of this study was to investigate the perception and attitudes of people in Greece regarding the use of the Internet for Health and Illness (H&I). It is the Greek part of a survey conducted concurrently in 7 European countries in 2005 and 2007, to establish eHealth consumer trends across Europe.

METHOD 1000 men and women aged between 15 and 80 years, in telephone interviews expressed their opinion on the use of the Internet for H&I. The sample was stratified for age, occupation, and geographic location of residence. The questionnaire used is based on earlier Norwegian surveys (2000-2002) and was translated to national languages, including Greek, using the dual focus method. Four questions designed specifically for Greece explored the acceptance of innovative eHealth services.

RESULTS In all Greek regions, the Internet is considered an important information source for H&I by 37.7-38.5% of the respondents. Internet use for H&I, however, varies considerably between urban and rural areas (29.5% vs 18.5%), reaffirming the existence of the digital divide in Greece. While personal contact with health professionals ranks first among information sources for H&I, half the Internet users for H&I go online in search of information before or after a medical appointment. Moreover, 59% of the Internet users for H&I make their decision about whether to consult a health professional based partly on information found on the Internet. Of the Internet users, 58.5% feel relief after consulting the Internet on H&I issues. Regarding eHealth, 26% of the respondents feel comfortable with medical visits via computer or video-phone. Furthermore, 46% would grant remote access to their medical data to expedite diagnosis. Given the opportunity, 61.7% would access their Electronic Health Record (EHR) online, 59.2% even with an annual fee.

CONCLUSIONS Perception and use of the Internet as an information source for H&I assert the existence of a wide digital divide in Greece. However, favorable disposition towards online EHR access and hesitance towards telemedicine suggest that this divide can be bridged with education, user-oriented services, and incentives.

Key words: Health Services Administration, Internet survey, Medical Records, Telemedicine.

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