How Physicians Tackle Internet-Misinformed Patients: Going Beyond Traditional Patient-Centered Communication – A Study Protocol

Qianfeng Lu, Peter J. Schulz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: The proliferation of misleading and irrelevant health information on the Internet has become a significant public concern. Inappropriate use of online materials can cause harm to patients’ health and quality of life. While close attention has been paid to health campaigns and education programs that aim to disseminate accurate health knowledge, the role of physicians, who directly communicate with patients in medical encounters and provide personalized information, has been overlooked. Therefore, this study focuses on physicians and their communication strategies with internet-misinformed patients (IMPs). Objective: This study aims to understand the communicative strategies physicians use to tackle IMPs and explore connections between physicians’ communicative strategies and patient-centered communication. Methods: Approximately 10 to 15 physicians from diverse cultural backgrounds, including Ticino (an Italian-speaking region in Switzerland), Milan and China will be interviewed. Interviews will be conducted in-person or online through video conferencing software programs. Physicians will be asked about their experiences with IMPs, communicative strategies for addressing patients’ misconceptions, balancing patient preferences, decision-making obstacles, and envisioning an ideal relationship with them. A thematic analysis will be utilized to analyze data, employing a general inductive approach. Discussion: The results will provide valuable insights into effective clinical communication strategies that address patients’ misuse of internet materials and inform policymakers and healthcare providers about the limitations and applicability of patient-centered communication in the current digital era.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)983-988
Number of pages6
JournalAdvances in Medical Education and Practice
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Lu and Schulz. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited.


  • misleading information
  • patient-centered communication
  • physician–patient relationship


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