Online information search by people with Multiple Sclerosis: A systematic review.
Berhanu D., Leal Rato M., Canhoto AI., Vieira da Cunha J., Geraldes R.
BACKGROUND: People with Multiple Sclerosis (pwMS) search for information online about various aspects of living with their disease, but details about patterns of searching and outcomes are unclear. This means that opportunities to leverage online resources to support pwMS, and to enhance shared decision making, may be missed. We aimed to do a systematic review of the literature on digital information searching by pwMS. METHODS: We performed a systematic search for studies assessing online information seeking of pwMS in MEDLINE and JSTOR databases. Studies were screened and selected by two investigators. All study designs were included, risk of bias was assessed using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme qualitative checklist. Reports were assessed for the proportion of patients searching information online about MS, type of information sought, online tools used by patients, perceived quality of the information acquired, and impact of online searching in pwMS. RESULTS: We identified 5 studies, including 10,090 patients. Most pwMS search for information online (53.8-82 %), which they rarely discuss with physicians. The most common topics are treatment, general disease information, symptoms, lifestyle recommendations, prognosis, and coping strategies. Patients that are younger, have a shorter disease duration, primary progressive MS, and during periods of disease worsening, are more likely to use online resources. Online information is perceived as low quality by pwMS. CONCLUSIONS: Online information search is prevalent among pwMS. Despite concerns with the quality of the available information, only a minority of pwMS will discuss the information found with their physician. These findings highlight the importance of developing and providing quality online information resources for pwMS.