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People Check the Internet Before Their Doctor for Health Information

An original investigation published in the December 12, 2005 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that more patients are looking for information on the Internet before talking with their physicians. Lead investigator Dr Bradford Hesse from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, stated, "The context in which patients consume health information has changed dramatically with diffusion of the Internet, advances in telemedicine, and changes in media health coverage."

The information for this report came from the Health Information National Trends Survey in which 6369 persons 18 years or older were polled by telephone. Of those polled, over 63% had used the Internet, of those 63.7 percent had used the Internet to find health information. The report did note, however, that patients still trust the information they get from their doctor more than what they find on the Internet.

Some doctors see this flood of information as a problem creating more questions. Dr Hesse, noting that doctors are spending more time reviewing information that patients bring them from the Internet suggested, "Ongoing attention may be needed to adjust reimbursement policies for time spent with patients interpreting printouts, for accommodating shifts toward informed and shared decision making, for steering consumers to credible information sources, and for attending to the needs of those who fall through the cracks of the digital divide."

The most encompassing statement of the study comes from the introduction where the authors said, "The environment in which patients consume medical and health information has changed dramatically during the past decade. Rapid diffusion of Internet technology within the public sphere has placed an unprecedented amount of health information within reach of general consumers."