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clinmed/2003050001v1 (February 25, 2004)
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How the Public Access Health Information on the Internet: A study involving Public Internet Access Points.

Vinod Scaria

Background: Internet is used to access a variety of information. Health information is obviously one of them. Nothing is much known about the access patterns of health information on Internet. Objectives: To analyse the actual occurrence of access to health information on the Internet in the general population in a natural and non-obtrusive setting and to quantify how information is accessed on the Internet. Design: A quantitative study of the Internet access pattern in a natural setting and further analysis of data generated from the initial observation. Methods: Analysis of the History of Internet access on ten personal computers over a time period of seven days, and further analysis of the data generated. Setting: Calicut, Kerala, India. Results: We analysed the Internet access history of seven computers over a period of seven days and retrieved information on 10,087 page views corresponding to 5316 webpages and 4095 websites. Only 7150 page views were amenable for analysis, out of which 274 page views corresponding to 228pages contained obvious health information. Of the health webpages accessed, 57 were accessed via search engines. Conclusions: Further studies utilizing advanced softwares to accurately track Internet access patterns of users need to be employed for accurate analysis. KEYWORDS: Internet, Access to Information, Web site, World Wide Web, Search Engines