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Arch Hellen Med, 26(2), March-April 2009, 246-256


Using the internet for health purposes: Ī”erceptions and attitudes of Greeks in the 15-35 years age group

Biomedical Informatics Laboratory, Institute of Computer Sciences, Foundation of Research and Technology, Heraklion, Crete, Greece

OBJECTIVE To investigate the attitudes and perceptions of late adolescents and young adults (15-35 years) about the use of the Internet for health and illness (H&I information) in Greece.

METHOD Data were collected within the frame of the WHO eHealth Consumer Trends Survey, conducted in seven European countries in October 2005 and May 2007. Data was gathered through telephone assisted interviews and the sample included 1,000 people in each country. The questionnaire was translated using the dual focus method. The current analysis concentrates on young adults from Greece (n=744).

RESULTS In Greece, use of the Internet for H&I information has tripled in the last years (32.1%, 52.8%: 15-35 years). Internet is the 4th most important source of information for young adults (53.3%), whereas in the general population it ranks last among all sources of health information (44.8%). Additionally, 51.8% of young respondents consider the existence of a website as an important criterion for selecting a medical practice or specialist and 78.5% consult the Internet in order to decide whether to visit a health professional, making the Internet undoubtedly an important decision tool for health-related issues. With respect to eHealth services, only 27.1% feel comfortable with remote medical visits via a computer or a video-phone, but 59.4% are positive towards sending their medical records to a doctor they have never met, in order to get a rapid and valid diagnosis. Furthermore, three in four young respondents (75.1%) would like to have online access to their Electronic Health Record (EHR) and 66.8% of these would be willing to pay an annual fee of 30 € for this service.

CONCLUSIONS The Internet and eHealth has the potential to change the framework of health care provision in Greece and internationally. Use of the Internet for H&I is popular among young adults and may contribute to cost containment and service quality improvement in the health sector. It is thus imperative that innovative eHealth services gain the support and trust of policy makers, health professionals, and consumers through awareness initiatives and incentives that emphasize service quality and security of the eHealth content and services offered. This is the only way the digital divide can be bridged and the Internet exploited for H&I information to its full potential.

Key words: E-Health, Internet, Medical records, Telemedicine, Young adults.

© Archives of Hellenic Medicine