1 in 3 Americans self-diagnose online
A recent report from the Pew Internet Project finds that 35 percent of adults in the U.S. diagnose themselves or others online. The report also finds that 59 percent of adults have gone online in the past year to search for health information, and 53 percent of the “online diagnosers” spoke with a clinician about the information they found online.
“This is certainly a growing trend among patients in the last couple of years,” said Dr. Bruce Hyman, an internal medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group. “I think the Internet is an incredible resource to patients, as long as they are going to reputable sites for their information. I would rather help guide my patients to reliable sites so they can be well educated about conditions.”
Dr. Hyman recommends that patients and consumers stick to national organizations, such as the American Heart Association, or websites affiliated with universities or academic medical centers.
The Pew study found that women are more likely than men to go online for a possible diagnosis. Younger people, white adults, those who live in households earning $75,000 or more, and those with a college degree or advanced degrees, are also more likely to use the web.
The study also noted, “Many have now added the Internet to their personal health toolbox, helping themselves and their loved ones better understand what might be ailing them. This study was not designed to determine whether the Internet has had a good or bad influence on health care.”
More and more hospitals and caregivers are looking at how online tools and apps can better help serve patients. For example, Downers Grove, Illinois-based Advocate Health Care, the state’s largest provider of care, offers a special app for parents called MyHealth Pal, that gives them the ability to look up their child’s symptoms and learn what they can do to help.
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