Friday 26 December 2014

Dr Google was right: researching your symptoms can help your diagnosis

Google search results will now be able to take in Gmail messages. Photo: Reuters

Patients can benefit from doing their own health research on the internet because it can help them get more from their GP, research has found.

People who look up their symptoms, investigate the latest treatments or research can gain more from their GP consultation, a study has found.

A team at University College London interviewed 26 people of varying ages why they took web-based information to their GP and what they had got out of it.

The findings, published in the British Journal of General Practice, showed that some felt GPs took them more seriously while others seemed worried that their doctor would be offended.

The research follows advice that patients should generally avoid ‘Googling’ their symptoms because of the wealth of inaccurate and misleading information on the web.

Professor Roger Jones, Editor of the BJGP, said: “Whereas GPs might have been sceptical in the past, many are increasingly using this as a way of opening up the discussion and engaging patients, which can lead to a more productive consultation for both patient and GP.

“It is very encouraging to see patients taking an interest in their health and the internet can be a useful means of finding out more about health concerns.

“It would be wrong to disregard the efforts patients are making to do this, but GPs will also advise caution because there are a lot of dubious sites providing information that is not based on evidence, which can be quite misleading when taken out of context.”

Lead author Parvathy Bowes, said: “GPs should feel encouraged by the findings, knowing that patients value their clinical expertise and that their existing communication skills of listening to patients and engaging with their agenda can help them respond appropriately to patients.”

Rebecca Smith

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