Internet Health Info, Should We?

Why people search the net and what are the risks

There is a shout out circulating in social media. “For those who self-diagnosed their symptoms on Google can have the second opinion on Yahoo.” People with health conditions turn to online resources to help manage their illness. Why? What’s prompting patients to do this?

Problem. Although the doctor remains the primary source of credible health information, surveys show 40-80% of what the doctor said is forgotten immediately after consultation. Worse, from that which are remembered, 50% is recalled incorrectly. Before a person can truly follow the recommended treatment and achieve the best outcome, one must understand the illness and be satisfied with the courses of action to be taken. If not met, people go to the internet for explanation.

Proof. In a survey, 79% of Filipinos access health information from general healthcare websites. This is followed by online health forums and health community websites, both 38%. Only 25% of Filipinos try to get health information from Facebook.

Potential risks for patients. Limitations of internet health information, especially social media, include the following:
Not sure if the information is updated and credible
Confidentiality and privacy may be breached
Harmful or incorrect advice may be encountered
Overload of information and
Not sure of how the information can be applied to personal health issues.

Possible solutions. The doctor remains the key source of medical information because they are the primary guardian of patients’ health. There are also websites like “a:care” that provide quick access to credible, easy-to-understand medical information that will improve doctor-patient interaction. In these websites, contents are generated from treatment guidelines, peer-reviewed medical journals and information are offered free of cost.

People just need to be aware and be critical of the health information they mine from the internet. Health info from the net, should we? Yes . . . but just think before clicking.

Pei Lei the, Yates Mark. Digital health in Asia Findings from a survey into the use of digital channels amongst healthcare consumers in Asia. 2013 Issue 4 Digital health in Asia

Moorhead SA, Hazlett DE et al. J Med Internet Res. 2013 Apr; 15(4): e85.