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Doctor-patient Visit Versus Internet Directive for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Patients
Khin-Kyemon Aung, AB; Wei Kang Wu, BA; Andrew Tokumi, BA; Phoebe Kuo, AB; Charles Day, MD, MBA
Orthopedics, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, MA

Introduction: 62% of patients would like their doctor to recommend a specific website to find health information, but only 3% of patients receive such recommendations. We investigate whether providing patients with an internet website link would improve patient knowledge and satisfaction. Our hypothesis is that directing patients to a reliable website would improve both.

Material & Methods: 60 patients with a new diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) were prospectively randomized into two groups (Figure 1). 23 patients in the control group received a traditional doctor's visit with standard care for CTS. 37 patients in the handout group were directed to the ASSH webpage on CTS in addition to the doctor's visit. Patients later completed a 10-question true/false knowledge questionnaire and a 6-item satisfaction survey. Differences in scores were analyzed using two sample t-tests.

Results: Less than half of patients (48%) said they used the internet to learn more about CTS. Scores on the knowledge assessment (treatment: 6.84/10; control: 6.96/10), and the satisfaction survey (treatment: 4.64/5; control: 4.63/5) were similar for both groups (Figures 2 and 3). Patients who used the ASSH website scored similarly in knowledge to those who did not (ASSH: 6.89/10; non-ASSH: 6.97/10). Moreover, compared to patients who did not use the internet at all to learn about CTS, patients who used the internet scored 6.6% better (internet: 7.14/10; no internet: 6.70/10. p>.05). Regardless of internet usage, most patients scored well on knowledge and reported high satisfaction.

Conclusion: Whether the patient was given a handout, visited the ASSH or other internet websites, knowledge and satisfaction scores for all patients were similar. Since the physician was the common denominator in all the patient groups, results indicate that the patient-physician relationship may be more valuable to patient education than the internet. If the surgeon provides an internet link, then close to half of the patients will use it. Within those who use the physician-recommended website, 83% will actively seek knowledge using other internet sources.

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