One Quarter of all Americans Go to Google for Medical Diagnosis

by Kim Painter ,  USA TODAY | 2013-01-15

If you are using the Internet for health information, most likely you are among those who search the Internet for a diagnosis. Yet, patients with serious concerns still turn to health professionals for the top source of information. Most of those who answered a questionnaire say they still start their quest for medical advice with search engines. The survey, quoted by USA Today, confirms people ask online questions related to symptoms and diagnoses. 

The survey reveals that around 35% of the U.S. adults have used the Internet to figure out what medical condition they or a loved one might have. The Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C did this survey and found that among the adults who go online to get any kind of health information, almost two thirds admit to have done diagnostic investigation.

3,014 people answered the questionnaire and apparently, it is now reliable national data. Lead researcher Susannah Fox says the Web "is where a lot of people are starting" when they have medical questions.

Researchers also state that people later use the information they got online, to decide whether to see a doctor, or not. And, to no surprise, most do: The survey found just one-third ended up handling the problem on their own.

In a separate part of the survey, 70% said that the last time they had a serious health problem, they got mostly offline information, care and support from doctors or other health professionals.  

But the best of both worlds is for doctors to be available to their patients online, through e-mail and websites, and to point them toward other trustworthy online resources, some say. 

The survey shows most people start online medical searches with a search engine rather than a specific health site or social networks. 

A  pediatrician says, "I would encourage people to search more, rather than less," and to keep talking to their doctors about what they find.

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