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Young adults seek healthcare advice from Dr. Web

August 5, 2008 | 10:30 am

During my years as a health reporter, I have often spoken to physicians who are frustrated when patients disagree with the doctor's advice because of something they have read on the Internet.


Doctors should brace themselves for more challenges from patients who have already consulted Dr. Web. A survey by the healthcare marketing and communications company Envision Solutions LLC shows that more than one-third of adults have doubted a medical professional's opinion or diagnosis because it conflicts with information they have found online. The survey was conducted online and involved 1,000 adults ages 18 and older. The findings include:

  • Among those ages 18 to 34, 43% said they doubted their health provider's advice when it conflicted with online sources.
  • Latinos are least likely to rely on traditional authority figures. Only 34% said they would consult their primary health providers first if they were diagnosed with a medical condition compared with 62% of whites and 61% of African-Americans.
  • Very few Americans trust institutions such as government, the media and nonprofits as highly credible health sources.

That last finding confounds me, I must admit. In defense of the media, we bend over backward to provide accurate, balanced information. And we often turn to government sources as unbiased providers of facts and statistics and to nonprofits to provide a point of view that represents patients.

But, as the survey points out, the majority of Americans still trust their healthcare providers the most. After all, they did go to med school. You can access the report at Envision Solutions.

-- Shari Roan

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Comments (1)

I think a distinction needs to be acknowledged here between distrusting your doctor and questioning him or her. I view information I get on the Web as background to help me ask intelligent questions of my healthcare provider, and I find nothing as frustrating as doctors who treat me as though I distrust their judgment when I'm just trying to make sure I understand what I'm being told and the implications. On the one hand, docs want us to be take more responsibility for our own health, on the other hand some of them don't want to be asked any questions -- or don't have time for it.

I was my mother's primary caregiver for 8 months before she died and became a passionate information hound at that time. It should also be acknowledged that doctors and other providers are human and they do sometimes make mistakes! I caught more than one because I had a reasonable understanding of my mother's condition and her medications. I don't blame the providers -- they have many patients to attend to and are terribly overburdened in the current system. But I only have one patient I care about -- myself or my loved one -- and providers need to learn to listen to patients and trust them just as we need to trust their education and experience (along with understanding and accepting its limitations).


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