Giving a boost to proponents of consumer-directed healthcare, a new study suggests that patients will make lifestyle changes to prevent heart disease when given specific information about their health.
The Society of Interventional Radiology said Monday at its annual scientific meeting in Salt Lake City that 75% of patients would make "significant" lifestyle changes to prevent heart disease or atherosclerosis if told they have high levels of calcium deposits in their coronary arteries, even if no symptoms are present.
Patients of physicians that provide such information "are much more motivated to take action or medications if needed," says Michael Mastromatteo, M.D., an interventional radiologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.
The conclusion is based on the experiences of 1,700 patients given tests for coronary calcium, even though they did not exhibit any symptoms of heart disease or narrowing of blood vessels. Of the 98 patients with high calcium scores who returned follow-up questionnaires, a full 75% changed their diet, exercise or weight-reduction habits as a result of the testing, researchers say.
Among these 98 individuals, 84% had elevated low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol prior to the blood scan, but only 31% showed high levels of LDL after making lifestyle changes.
These results do not mean that more patients are necessarily taking it upon themselves to find healthcare information, however, according to another survey.
The Harris Interactive polling organization said Friday that only about 52% of adults in the United States--an estimated 109 million people--had gone online to "look for information about health topics," according to a survey conducted in February. This is down slightly from the 53%, or 110 million people, who sought health data online during the same period in 2002 and represents the first time since Harris began researching this topic in 1998 that numbers had not increased.
Of the two-thirds of American adults who use the Internet, 78% say they have looked up health information online, down from 80% of online users a year earlier.
Among those surfing the 'Net for health information, 54% started their last search at a portal or search engine, according to the Harris poll, about the same as in 2002. Another 20% say they went to a site devoted exclusively to health-related topics, down from 26% last year, and 17% went to a more general site that might have a section specific to healthcare vs. 12% in 2002.