HEALTHY LIVING

Doctors Use Google For Health Information, Too, Survey Finds

11/01/2011 03:24 pm ET | Updated Jan 01, 2012

Maybe we shouldn't really be surprised to know that our doctors are Googling our medical problems.

A new survey by Wolters Kluwer Health shows that 46 percent of doctors frequently use sites like Google and Yahoo for treating, diagnosing or caring for their patients, The Atlantic reported.

By comparison, 68 percent of doctors said they frequently look to professional journals and 60 percent of doctors frequently go to their colleagues, according to the survey. Forty-two percent of doctors say they frequently get their information from conferences and events, and 42 percent say they frequently get their information from online health sites like the Mayo Clinic and WebMD.

The survey findings also note that "63 [percent] of physicians report changing an initial diagnosis based on new information accessed via online resources/support tools," researchers wrote in the survey report.

Ninety percent of doctors think that the ability to go online for resources has improved their ability to provide care, while just 12 percent think the opposite -- that online resources have hindered their quality of care, according to the survey.

The survey involved responses from more than 300 doctors who are members of the American Medical Association; about half of the respondents were primary care doctors, and the other half were specialists in their fields (including radiology, emergency medicine, neurology, oncology and obstetrics/gynecology).

In 2006, the British Medical Journal published a study showing that Google is a useful tool in doctors' toolkits, especially when it comes to difficult-to-diagnose illnesses. In that study, doctors plugged three to five search terms into Google of 26 diseases that are notoriously hard to diagnose (including Cushing's syndrome and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease).

Researchers found that Google was right 58 percent of the time in diagnosing the diseases, though they acknowledged that the person doing the Googling needs to also have a wide knowledge base in order to know what to search for.

As the Wall Street Journal points out with regard to the most recent survey:

... No one says Google and Yahoo don't lead people to tons of useful info -- just that it can be tough to sort the wheat from the chaff. Physicians, presumably, can assess the quality of the health information they dig up better than the average consumer.

And of course, we all know that doctors aren't the only ones Googling health info -- a Pew study shows that 61 percent of Americans go online for information related to health.

To see the full results of the Wolters Kluwer Health survey, click here.

Suggest a correction