Intended for healthcare professionals


Patient information on cancer

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 01 July 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:47

Access to the information should be made easier

  1. Michelle Gillies, medical student (fourth year) (
  1. Glasgow University, Glasgow G12 8QQ
  2. Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, Gardiner Institute, Western Infirmary, Glasgow G11 6NT

    EDITOR—Jones et al found that patients with cancer preferred a computer system giving personalised information to one that gave general information.1 This raises questions about the usefulness of the internet as a source of primary information for these patients. Cost, technological barriers, and information retrieval are other reasons to question the use of the internet as a primary source of information.

    To encourage home access the government has announced a scheme for cheaper computers. Telephone costs, however, are still relatively high. There may also be technological barriers: 18% of patients in one American practice (mean age 27) were initially unable to perform any computer functions on their own and required help from a medical student to use the internet.2 Computer experience among older British patients is much lower: among 200 gastroenterology outpatients in Glasgow (mean age 54) 68% had never used a computer before.3

    Good quality information for patients with cancer does exist on the internet but may be difficult to find if users do not have suitable “gateways.” Using …

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