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Evaluating World Wide Web-based foot care information Diabetic Foot, The, Spring, 2006 by Mairghread Ellis, Brian Ellis

The NHS is encouraging individuals to be increasingly proactive in their healthcare, promoting the Internet as a source of patient information (Department of Health and NHS Executive, 1998). As the Internet is increasingly used by patients, it is important to ensure that individuals source relevant and good-quality information, which is easily accessible through UK-focused consumer health websites. This article describes a study undertaken to assess the quality of Internet-based information on foot care available to people with diabetes in the UK.

Patient education

Given the possible outcomes of peripheral ischaemia and neuropathy associated with diabetes, the care of individuals with the condition is one of the most important areas of podiatric practice. These outcomes, combined with high foot pressures, self-treatment or both, can lead to morbidity and mortality, with foot ulceration the most common manifestation of diabetic neuropathy, and diabetes being the second commonest cause of lower limb amputation (Department of Health [DoH], 2001). Guidelines for diabetes care have cited health education as essential to prevent and minimise foot pathology, and foot care education is promoted as an important part of managing diabetic foot disease (Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network [SIGN], 2001). For podiatrists, as for other health professionals, health education constitutes a large part of practice with regard to the high-risk patient, such as those with diabetes (Cooper et al, 2003).

Traditionally, within the medical model of health care, the health professional holds the role of educator, and health education has been delivered on a face-to-face basis, usually verbally or with printed material. Historically, the health professional has been the giver of this necessary information and the patient has merely been the vessel to receive it (Muir Gray, 2002). In the 20th Century, the clinician held the resources, and the patient simply had to be patient (Coulter, 2002). It is now recognised that the 21st Century patient needs and desires knowledge about his or her condition and its management, and increasingly uses his or her own resources (e.g. the Internet) to access this (Muir Gray, 2002).

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