Background The Internet is an important way of delivering medical information to assist in improving patient’s self-management of their disease.
Objectives We have established an Arthritis education website (‘Arthritis Help’) and investigated its use over two years.
Methods Computer generated log file analysis and online questionnaire were used to create usage profiles of our web site.
Results An average of 288 people visited our site each day predominantly, but not exclusively, from America and the UK (49% of users). The typical questionnaire respondent (n = 770) was a 30+ year old American female with arthritis, accessing the Internet from home. They had previously obtained information from medical staff or in written form but were now more likely to use the Internet. 167 out of 585 respondents found our site to be useful prompting them to seek more information (29%), change their behaviour or engage in more effective discussions with their physician (15%). 427 people responded to our comments section of the questionnaire of which 333 made clear suggestions. 21% of these respondents were enquiring about a specific medical condition or requesting more information on that condition. 20% wanted more detailed information about rheumatoid conditions, treatments or drug information. 9% wished to see more information on ‘alternative treatments’ whilst diet, exercise, new treatments, a questions and answers section, a section to air shared experiences and links to other information formed 5–6% of respondents suggestions.
Conclusion This data indicates that it is possible to use the internet to deliver medical information to it’s target audience and that this process can have some impact on the way disease is self-managed. This information may aid more focused web-site design to maximise use and the potential benefits from such a resource.