Poll reveals more than half use 'Dr Google' to diagnose illness

More than half of people are diagnosing their illnesses on Google before going to a GP, according to a survey presented at the Primary Care Partnership Conference at Croke Park yesterday.

The study of patients in 2015 in the US found 57% went to 'Dr Google' first, with half of those then searching for treatment options.

The poll, carried out by Rock Health in 2015, found that 35% of patients asked their doctor to prescribe a specific drug or asked to discontinue a specific drug, while 45% sought a specific treatment plan based on their internet diagnosis.

They also found that 49% of patients searched online for information on treatment options based on their internet diagnosis.

Doctors are worried about the trend, saying people are at risk of misdiagnosing themselves.

They are encouraging people to consult with a GP if feeling unwell instead of self-diagnosing.

Mr Hal Wolf, Director of the Digital Health Strategy at the Chartis Group (USA), told the conference in Dublin yesterday: "Patients are increasingly seeking out a diagnosis online and presenting this diagnosis, and a treatment plan, to their GPs.

"The use of 'Dr Google' poses many dangers for patients who should consult their GP first if they have any health concerns. By self-diagnosing, patients are risking misinterpreting their symptoms which can cause unnecessary anxiety.

"However, the use of the internet for immediate information is often a reflection of access problems within many systems as well as the need for convenient but trusted knowledge management. These same patients still rank physicians, friends, and family highest when it comes to trustworthiness of sources suggesting a strong case for digital health and knowledge management systems in association with their provider."

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