More than one-third of Americans have researched online to diagnose themselves or someone else, and while they've been more accurate than not, many people don't follow-through with a clinical visit to confirm any diagnosis, a survey found
The Pew Internet & American Life project conducted the survey among more than 3,000 adults by phone or cellphone in the fall of 2012.
Based on their recall, 46% of online diagnosers said they then thought they needed clinical advice, 38% thought they could treat it at home and 11% say it was both or in-between.
Among the outcomes:
--41% said a medical professional confirmed their diagnosis. Another 2% said a medical professional partially confirmed it.
--35% said they did not visit a clinician to get a professional opinion.
--18% said a medical professional either disagreed or offered a different opinion about the condition.
--1% said their conversation with a clinician was inconclusive.
The Pew report stated, "Historically, people have always tried to answer their health questions at home and made personal choices about whether and when to consult a clinician. Many have now added the internet to their personal health toolbox, helping themselves and their loved ones better understand what might be ailing them. This study was not designed to determine whether the internet has had a good or bad influence on health care. It measures the scope, but not the outcome, of this activity."
For those who sought health information online, 77% started at a search engine, 13% began at health information websites such as WebMD, 2% started at a more general site like Wikipedia and an additional 1% say they started at a social network site.
One in four users hit a pay-wall, but only 2% did so. Most people (83%) tried other sites, while 13% stopped looking.