The Web as Doctor

  • About 35% of U.S. adults say they have used the Internet to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have.
  • People who attempted a diagnosis online were more likely to have it confirmed than disputed by a doctor — 41% vs. 18%.
  • Most people, 77%, still start online medical searches with a search engine, such as Google or Bing, rather than a specific health site (13%) or social networks such as Facebook(1%).

Source: USA Today.

Comments (9)

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  1. Jordan says:

    41% surprised me.. I suppse for hypochondriacs, it’s mostly accuracy by volume.

  2. Evan Carr says:

    “People are using the information they find to decide whether to see a doctor,” Fox says. Most do: The survey found just one-third ended up handling the problem on their own.”

    That is encouraging. Perhaps more people go see the doctor because of the internet, not in spite of it.

  3. Devon Herrick says:

    For most medical conditions, people initially self-diagnose and treat symptoms, usually with OTC drug remedies. OTC drug products account for 60 percent of drugs used by Americans. 84 According to an article in the British Medical Journal, only one out of every 40 symptoms results in a patient making an office visit for a medical consultation.

    According to a 2004 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, patients usually want more information about their medical condition than they receive from their doctors. For instance, during a 20-minute office visit physicians spend less than one minute discussing planning and treatment, on the average. Doctors discuss options and help patients arrive at a treatment based on their preferences during fewer than one in 10 office visits. About half the time, doctors fail to ask patients if they have questions.26

    Most patients with Internet access (90 percent) would like the ability to consult their physician by e-mail, according to a Harris Interactive poll.53 However, only a few doctors offer patients the ability to request services or prescriptions by e-mail. 54

    A longer discussion and all sources are available: here

  4. Andrew O says:

    This brings up some interesting stats and ideas of the role of cyber-world in medical practice. I personally think medicine and the internet have not been used effectively to help the patient be more proactive about his/her own health. A huge problem with patients in this country is their level of blind trust and ignorance toward diagnosis, which can potentially allow a doctor to perform a myriad of unnecessary exams. A stronger shift toward online diagnosis and electronic communication between doctors and patients should be advocated for…even for convenience purposes.

  5. Neil Caffrey says:

    35% of U.S. adults say they have used the Internet to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have.

    - very useful for “self-diagnosing” problems

  6. Evan Carr says:

    Your comment definitely rings true to me Devon. I often notice doctors trying to rush through their consultations. Coming to the doctor’s office armed with questions you are ready to ask seems to be the only way to truly get the info you want. I know some doctors charge large fees to give out their cell phone numbers. I wonder what the fee is to have e-mail support? Maybe we can outsoure this sort of thing (sarcasm)…

  7. Buster says:

    There was an article a few years ago about using Google and other web-based services to diagnose disease. David Williams didn’t have much to say about it that was positive. However, I think this is a trend that will grow in the future as databases get better. Even your doctor will use it.

    Williams did raise an interesting take on the subject. What if, not just an answer to our query, you also got Google advertisements? He wrote about it in What if Google finds out you have cancer before you do?.

    When I’ve queried Google I expect to see articles on health websites, also I see a lot of other patients discussing the problem. Sometimes they are attempting to answer questions. Although novices are not the most helpful when you need professional advise, the opinion of others suffering with the same problem may be valuable to you. But, what if in addition to your answers (whether right or wrong) you get Google advertisements based on what Google thinks is wrong with you?

  8. Chelsea says:

    This is not surprising at all. These days you can find just about any type of information on the Internet…you can even Google your family tree for God’s sake. Nevertheless, people should have some common sense when doing these types of researches as they can be misleading and, more often than not, misinformative.

  9. Life of Pi says:

    Pew did a fascinating research study into this:
    http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Health-online.aspx