High digital literacy in Patients Requesting Radiological Studies

Lizzie De Silva, Melissa Baysari, Melanie Keep, Peter Kench, Julian Clarke

Background: Easy internet access to health information has significantly changed how people obtain health-related information. Patients are increasingly taking an active role as health consumers. We studied patients who request referrals from their doctors for radiology examinations. Such patient-initiated referral requests have been recognised as a disruptor to the traditional healthcare model.

Aims: This study aimed to understand individuals who sought online health information (OHI) and to explore the relationship between accessing OHI, and patients securing their requests for radiological referrals from doctors.

Methods: Individuals who had had a radiological procedure in the past five years were invited to complete a 20-minute, anonymous online survey exploring the aims. Included in the survey was a validated digital health literacy measurement scale, eHEALS.

Results: Individuals who scored higher on the eHEALS measure were most likely to request radiological referrals. These individuals were under 55 years old and unconcerned about the credibility of the OHI they sourced. However, notably, most participants with higher scores, secured the desired outcome from their radiological requests.

Conclusions: Increasing digital health literacy due to the availability of OHI, enables patients to be consumers of health through requests for radiological imaging and radiological interventions from their doctors. Those participating, and particularly the higher eHEALS scorers, were comfortable and confident in making their requests and reported obtaining the anticipated outcome from their requested studies. As such, doctors are operating under a new paradigm of healthcare, with the availability of OHI disrupting traditionally fashioned model of care.