The survey revealed that 52 million Americans have been online to get medical information. Of these, some 21 million people were swayed by the information they found on the internet. The main influence was exhibited in decisions as to how to treat illness, asking further questions of a doctor, or seeking a second opinion. 28 per cent said that the information that they found affected their decision about whether or not they should visit a doctor.
Interestingly, most users go to online information for research and reference purposes. Only 9 per cent said that they had communicated with a doctor online, with a similar number using the internet as a channel to purchase medicines.
How Web information influenced people:
70% - treatment choice
50% - new questions or a second opinion
28% - whether to visit a doctor
Of those seeking medical information online, there was a tendency among patients to do so prior to a visit to a doctor, whilst relatives sought information subsequently.
The main reasons for using this channel to get health and medical information were given as: convenience of timing, the opportunity to access more information, and the chance to gain it anonymously.
While most feared getting inaccurate information, they tended to hedge against this possibility by visiting multiple sites.