Blog | Monday, December 2, 2013

QD: News Every Day--4 of 5 doctors discussed information from Internet with patients

Four of 5 doctors discussed in the past month clinical concerns with a patient who had used the Internet or other social media resources to get a diagnosis, according to a reader survey by ACP Internist.

The reader poll, conducted online throughout November, asked readers about how often they’d discussed information that patients had gotten online on behalf of themselves or a loved one. The survey follows up on an article in the November edition of the magazine that outlined the increasingly common habit of patients seeing “Dr. Google” before reaching out to their own physician.

81% of survey respondents had dealt with the scenario at least once, with 40% experiencing between 1 and 5 encounters, 24% experiencing between 6 and 10 encounters, and nearly 17% saying they’d dealt with more than 10 clinical encounters in the previous month.

35% of U.S. adults have gone online to try to identify a medical condition in themselves or someone else, according to a 2013 survey from Pew Research Center. This phenomenon even spawned a new term, “cyberchondria.”

Some resources include social media outlets, the Wild West of medical information. But credible institutions such as Mayo and Cleveland Clinics, as well as online-only businesses, like WebMD, offer them, albeit as suggestions and not an alternative to a physician visit.

Physicians have to be receptive to patients’ use of online symptom checkers, the experts caution. Verify that patients are using symptom checkers appropriately, encourage them to ask follow-up questions about the information they found, and make sure, also, that patients clearly understand the limitations of such tools.