Background: For many patients, the general practitioner (GP) is the most important point of contact for obtaining information about a wide range of health topics. However, patients with different characteristics may seek health information from different sources, such as friends or the internet. The relationship between patient characteristics and preferences for information sources is understudied. We investigate which information sources are used by patients for health-related questions and how this relates to patients’ sociodemographics, health, and health literacy.
Methods: A stratified and population-based survey was conducted to investigate health information sources within the German population over 35 years (n = 4144). Sociodemographics, use of technology, health-related indicators, and health literacy (including self-efficacy and action planning), as well as questions regarding the ratings of multiple health-related information sources, were investigated in personal interviews and analyzed using logistic regression.
Results: In our study, GPs were the most important source of information for the patients, followed by medical specialists, pharmacists and the internet. Patient age and number of illnesses were associated with the choice of information source. Furthermore, action planning and self-efficacy for acquiring health knowledge were associated with the selected source of information.
Conclusions: Information provider appears to be an important role for GPs, particularly among old and chronically ill patients. GPs should have the specific capabilities to fill this role and should be trained and referred to accordingly. Selfefficacy and action planning for acquiring health knowledge are important patient factors doctors can use for brief inventions during consultations.