Doctors dubious about internet health information

People are increasingly surfing the internet in search of health information – and doctors aren’t always best pleased.

A study by Spanish researchers found that more than 40 percent of Spaniards look online for health information. But, they found, 31 percent of doctors believe that the internet complicates their relationship with patients and undermines their credibility.

“Although the e-patient is a new phenomenon that is growing exponentially, very few studies analyze it from a doctor’s point of view,” said main author José Joaquín Mira of Miguel Hernández University.

As a result, the researchers analysed the opinion of 660 doctors who all work for the Spanish National Health System (330 in primary health care and 330 in hospitals). They found that 96 percent had been questioned by their patients about information gleaned from the internet.

But the doctors certainly don’t regard the internet as all bad, with almost three out of every 10 recommending websites to their patients. Forty-two percent reckoned it helps patients to learn about their illness.

However, only 20 percent of the doctors surveyed said that the internet increased patient independence.

The full results are published in Atención Primaria.