Five million Australians pay for a doctor’s visit in an average four week period—but an increasing proportion of them are also going online to look up health and medical information themselves, Roy Morgan Research shows.
Doctors’ visitors are today over a third more likely to also look up medical information online than they were four years ago: in 2011, 13.2% of Australians (aged 14+) who had paid for a doctor’s visit in the last four weeks had used the internet to look up health or medical information within the same period.
In the year to September 2015, 17.7% of patients (or those paying for their visit) used the internet for some independent medical research.
Overall, 11.3% of Australians (14+) looked up health or medical information online in the last four weeks, up from 9.1% in 2011.
Around four in ten online health researchers go, or have been to, a doctor within the same period, unchanged over the past five years.
“Medical practitioners need to be aware that over one in six patients today are also researching health and medical information on the internet—and the number is growing,” says Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan Research.
“This Googling of symptoms and treatments may be conducted before or after a consultation, as a way to self-diagnose or get a second opinion.
“GPs and specialists could increasingly be facing patients who think they already know their conditions and the best medications (or indeed all the right symptoms to describe).
“Of course, the internet need not be all bad news for busy medical practitioners and our overworked health system.
“Doctors would do well to guide their patients to trustworthy websites for further information on their illnesses and medications, while governments and health organisations could develop and publicise reliable online tools for people to use as a source of information without having to see their GP.”