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Survey: Americans Trust Web-Based Health Information

May 22, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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According to a new survey from healthcare business intelligence vendor Wolters Kluwer Health, Americans trust information about their health that appears online. The survey, which was conducted by IPSOS, which talked to 1,000 consumers in the U.S. ages 18 and older, says three in ten Americans report they “always” or “frequently” turn to the internet to find answers to medical questions.

In addition, 65 percent of those seeking medical information online saying they trust the information they see. Among consumers seeking medical information online, 63 percent claim to have never misdiagnosed themselves using online information. The survey’s authors surmise easier access to online medical information may have a positive impact on the doctor-patient relationship, with two-thirds, 67 percent, of Americans that seek medical information online stating that this has made them better informed as patients. Forty-eight percent of consumers say they turn to the internet to find answers to medical questions in order to be more informed about a medical condition before a doctor’s visit.

Even with all of these consumers seeking medical information online, the survey said only four percent report having experienced “cyberchondria” – which is a term that describes when people become convinced that they have an illness or condition they don’t actually have based on information they read on the Internet.

The survey focused on uncovering consumer perceptions of and practices around using online resources and information to answer medical questions as well as exploring consumer self-diagnosis habits. Interestingly, an earlier survey conducted in late 2011 (Wolters Kluwer Health Point-of-Care survey of more than 300 U.S. physicians, also conducted by IPSOS) showed that like consumers, physicians also turn to the internet for much of their information, citing general browsers such as Google and Yahoo as a source of information for 46 percent of survey respondents.

Furthermore, among Americans who would rely on the Internet to diagnose an illness, more than three-quarters (77 percent) say they would then discuss the information with their doctor to verify a diagnosis. Twenty-nine percent of those who go online for medical information, including 38 percent of those between the ages of 18 and 34, cite “accessibility” as the reason they would turn to the Internet versus visiting a doctor to diagnose or treat an illness

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