Patients say Googling health symptoms improves communication with their physician

Adults who search for health information on the internet before visiting the hospital say it improves communication with their physician, according to a study published in The Medical Journal of Australia.

Researchers asked 400 adult patients who visited one of two large tertiary referral center emergency departments in Melbourne, Australia, to complete a survey about their health-related internet searches and their subsequent attitudes toward treatment compliance between February and May 2017.

Almost half of the patients surveyed — 49 percent — said they regularly searched the internet for health information, and 34.8 percent said they searched their current health problem online before visiting the ED. The average age of participants was 47.1 years, however, younger patients were more likely to search online before visiting the ED.

More than three-quarters of the respondents — 77.3 percent — reported that searching for health information online before visiting the ED improved communication with their physician. Most patients said they would not or would rarely doubt their physician's diagnosis (79 percent) or change their treatment plan (91 percent) based on conflicting information they found online.

The study authors concluded, "searching had a positive impact on the doctor-patient interaction and was unlikely to reduce adherence to treatment."

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