Blog | Tuesday, December 3, 2013

QD: News Every Day--Chronic diseases drive patients online, then to their doctor

People living with chronic diseases are more likely to look up information on the Internet or seek out peers in social-media based communities, and then bring what they find online to their doctors, a survey found.

The Pew Research Center, supported by the California HealthCare Foundation, conducted a survey about how adults with chronic conditions seek out health information. When controlling for demographics and overall health, Internet users living with one or more chronic conditions were more likely to:
• gather information online about medical problems, treatments, and drugs,
• consult online reviews about drugs and other treatments, or
• read or watch something online about someone else’s personal health experience.

31% of U.S. adults living with chronic conditions say they have gone online specifically to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have. They are more likely than other “online diagnosers” to talk with a clinician about what they find. 60% of online diagnosers living with chronic conditions say they talked with a medical professional about the information they found online, compared with 48% of those with no chronic conditions. About half of online diagnosers with chronic conditions say that a clinician confirmed their suspicions, either completely or in part. About 1 in 5 said that a clinician offered a different opinion.

Also, people living with chronic conditions are significantly more likely than other adults to track weight, diet, exercise or health indicators such as blood pressure, blood sugar, sleep patterns or headaches. 80% of adults living with two or more conditions do so, compared with 70% of those with one condition and 61% with no chronic conditions.

Trackers living with chronic conditions are also more likely than others to take formal notes, to track on a regular basis, and to share their notes with other people, particularly clinicians. Fully 72% of trackers living with chronic conditions say that keeping notes of any kind has had an impact on their health routine or the way they care for someone else, compared with 55% of trackers who report no conditions.

The results dovetail with a recent cover story and survey among ACP Internist readers, which reported that 4 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. 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.

81% of survey respondents had said they had addressed patient concerns based on information they’d encountered online or through social media in the previous month:
• 40% experienced between 1 and 5 patient encounters,
• 24% experienced between 6 and 10 encounters, and
• nearly 17% said they’d handled more than 10 clinical encounters in the previous month.