Self – Diagnose (Internet use)


Bridget M. Kuehn – More Than One-Third of US Individuals Use the Internet to Self-diagnose LINK: JAMA 2013;309:757

Bridget M. Kuehn’s paper concerning the use of Internet by Americans to self-diagnose has recently been published in JAMA. Data was collected from over 3000 adults in a telephone survey.

Results show that 81% of adult Americans use the Internet, 59% visited webpages with medical information in the past year and 35% confirmed that they looked “online” for a diagnosis for themselves or another person.

Among „Internet diagnosers” 46% decided that their condition required them to seek medical advice, 38% – that they could self-treat, 11% chose the intermediate option. Ultimately, 53% of respondents consulted their observations with a doctor, and 41% of those said that the doctor confirmed their diagnosis.

More than three-fourths of respondents began their search using a general search engine, like Google, 13% used specialised services, like WebMD, 2% used pages like Wikipedia, 1% used Facebook and other social media.

According to Berland et al., a general search engine is often of little use, as only ca. 20% of hits in English lead to reliable information.

Development of mobile technologies will lead to an increase in the amount of people searching for information. About a half of respondents who own smartphones used them to obtain information concerning health. 26% of respondents found webpages with pay-for-access content, but only 2% paid for the information, 83% tried to find similar data elsewhere, while 13% ceased searching altogether.

Webpages concerning healthcare created by the patients themselves are a new phenomenon. Around 25% of adult Americans used the Internet to contact other persons suffering from similar illnesses. Such webpages may be of use for patients in dealing with their illnesses and increasing quality of life.

To sum up, according to the Health Online 2013 survey more than one third of Americans use the Internet to self-diagnose their illnesses. A little over half of respondents consult the results of their searches with their doctors.

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