Patients and their search for online health answers


Steve Rubel highlighted an interesting health related item a couple of weeks back.

Pew Internet and American Life project released a study on how people search for health information online – one of the main points being raised was the fact that most people do not check the veracity/context of the results.

According to Rubel,

Clearly, people are turning to search for health information, ignoring
the source and then going online to find peers for further reassurance.
This represents a huge fundamental shift in healthcare. No longer do
the health professionals hold all the cards. The patient is empowered
with information that may very often be inaccurate, and they are basing
at least some of their decisions on it.

Irish Radio Station TodayFM had a brief interview with an Irish General Practitioner on the subject on friday evening last (Ronan Boland of He pointed out that that patients getting information online is nothing new, but of course was in no way a replacement for a consultation and diagnosis with a medical professional.

My first experience of this was in 1995, when hospital doctors were beginning to relate stories of  patients self-diagnosing and in some cases, pointing  medics to online resources. There has been much anecdotal evidence since, especially with rarer conditions, that patients are often very well-informed; the web has enabled research beyond the medical libraries and textbooks.

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