Social Networking and Internet Use Among Pelvic Floor Patients: A Multicenter Survey

Internet resources are becoming increasingly important for patients seeking medical knowledge. It is imperative to understand patient use and preferences for using the Internet and social networking websites to optimize patient education.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate social networking and Internet use among women with pelvic floor complaints to seek information for their conditions, as well as describe the likelihood, preferences, and predictors of website usage.

This was a cross-sectional, multicenter study of women presenting to clinical practices of 10 Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery fellowship programs across the United States, affiliated with the Fellows' Pelvic Research Network. New female patients presenting with pelvic floor complaints, including urinary incontinence, pelvic organ prolapse, and fecal incontinence were eligible. Participants completed a 24 item questionnaire designed by the authors to assess demographic information, general Internet use, preferences regarding social networking websites, referral patterns, and resources utilized to learn about their pelvic floor complaints. Internet use was quantified as high (≥ 4 times/ week), moderate (2-3 times/week), or minimal (≤ 1 time/week). Means were used for normally distributed data and medians for data not meeting this assumption. Fisher's Exact and Chi-Square tests were used to evaluate associations between variables and Internet use.

A total of 282 surveys were analyzed. The majority of participants, 83.3%, were white. The mean age was 55.8 years old. Referrals to urogynecology practices were most frequently from obstetrician/gynecologists (39.9%) and primary care providers (27.8%). Subjects were well-distributed geographically, with the largest representation from the South (38.0%). Almost one-third (29.9%) were most bothered by prolapse complaints, 22.0% by urgency urinary incontinence, 20.9% by stress urinary incontinence, 14.9% by urgency/frequency symptoms, and 4.1% by fecal incontinence. The majority, 75.0%, described high Internet use, while 8.5% moderately and 4.8% minimally used the Internet. Women most often used the Internet for personal motivations including medical research (76.4%), and 42.6% reported Google to be their primary search engine. Despite this, only 4.9% primarily used the Internet to learn about their pelvic floor condition, more commonly consulting an obstetrician/gynecologistfor this information (39.4%). The majority (74.1%) held a social networking account, and 45.9% visited these daily. Nearly half, 41.7%, expressed the desire to use social networking websites to learn about their condition. Women < 65 years old were significantly more likely to have high Internet use (83.4% vs 68.8%, p = 0.018) and to desire using social networking websites to learn about their pelvic floor complaint (p = 0.008). Presenting complaint was not associated with Internet use (p = 0.905) or desire to use social networking websites to learn about pelvic floor disorders and (p = 0.201).

Women presenting to urogynecology practices have high Internet use and desire to learn about their conditions via social networking websites. Despite this, obstetrician/gynecologists remain a common resource for information. Nonetheless, urogynecology practices and national organizations would likely benefit from increasing their Internet resources for patient education in pelvic floor disorders, though patients should be made aware of available resources.

American journal of obstetrics and gynecology. 2016 Jun 16 [Epub ahead of print]

Donna Mazloomdoost, Gregory Kanter, Robert C Chan, Nicolette Deveaneau, Allison M Wyman, Emily C Von Bargen, Zaid Chaudhry, Solafa Elshatanoufy, Jeannine M Miranne, Christine M Chu, Rachel N Pauls, Lily A Arya, Danielle D Antosh

Division of Urogynecology and Pelvic Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, TriHealth/Good Samaritan Hospital, Cincinnati, OH. Electronic address: ., Division of Urogynecology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM., Department of Urology, Houston Methodist Hospital, Houston, Texas., Division of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Women's Health, Louisville, KY., Division of Female Pelvic Floor Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Morsani College of Medicine, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL., Division of Female Pelvic Floor Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Mount Auburn Hospital/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School Affiliate, Cambridge, MA., Division of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA., Division of Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Henry Ford Health Systems, Detroit, MI., Division of Urogynecology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA., Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA., Division of Urogynecology and Pelvic Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, TriHealth/Good Samaritan Hospital, Cincinnati, OH., Urogynecology and Reconstructive Pelvic Surgery, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA., Division of Urogynecology, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Methodist Center for Restorative Pelvic Medicine, Houston Methodist Hospital, Houston, TX.

Pelvic Health Weekly Newsletter