BACKGROUND: The University Hospital Zurich offers medical online consultation services in individual health concerns. We examined the need for users’ information in the field of CAM. For this purpose, the content of the questions, the users’ profiles, and the online responses of the physicians were analyzed.
The retrospective study analyzed 154 (1.3%) out of 11,827 questions and responses, selected by a literature-based keyword list between 2006 and 2007. They were evaluated by means of an inductive category system described by Mayring using a professional text analysis program (MAXQDA). Frequencies and mean values of the categories were statistically determined.
Users (aged 39.2 ± 16, females 61%) asked questions, which were in 73% allocated to herbal medicine, 7% to homeopathy, and 2% to acupuncture. The questions referred to medicalfields, such as gynecology (18%), dermatology (13%), psychiatry (11%), and oncology (8%). One third of the responses provided detailed information about herbal treatment options.
The email-based online consultation service was used as a source of medicalinformation in order to get more professional consultation in the field of CAM. Future scientific evaluation should investigate if online consultation services which are embedded in an environment of highly qualified health professionals may contribute to a better health literacy and empowerment of the patients.