The association between patient activation and accessing online health information: Results from a national survey of US adults

Samuel G. Smith*, Anjali Pandit, Steven R. Rush, Michael S. Wolf, Carol Simon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: There are increasing opportunities for the public to access online health information, but attitudinal barriers to use are less well-known. Patient activation is associated with key health outcomes, but its relationship with using online health information is not known. Objective: We examined the relationship between patient activation and the likelihood of accessing a range of different types of online health information in a nationally representative US sample. Design: Cross-sectional nationally representative survey. Setting and participants: Data were from an online (n = 2700) and random digit dial telephone survey (n = 700) of US adults (total n = 3400). Main variables studied: Respondent characteristics and the Patient Activation Measure. Main outcome measures: Self-reported access of five types of online health information in the past 12 months (online medical records, cost estimation tools, quality comparison tools, health information about a specific condition, preventive health information). Results: Approximately, one-fifth of the sample had accessed their medical record (21.6%), treatment cost estimation tools (17.3%) and hospital and physician quality comparison tools (21.8%). Nearly half of the sample had accessed information about medical conditions or treatments (48.3%) or preventive health and well-being (45.9%). In multivariable analyses adjusted for participant characteristics, respondents with greater patient activation were more likely to have accessed all types of health information other than cost estimation tools. Discussion and conclusions: Activated people are more likely to make use of online heath information. Increasing patient activation could improve the public's ability to participate in health care and personal health self-management by encouraging health information seeking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3262-3273
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Expectations
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Consumer activation
  • Health information
  • Patient activation
  • Personal health records

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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