Have you ever tried to ask Google about your symptoms? It’s not surprising if you’ve done it many times. Many people start with an online search to find help when they are sick.
With the general public being heavily reliant on internet searches to obtain health information, how does this impact modern healthcare services?
Dr. Google vs. Healthcare Professionals: Who’s the Real Winner?
According to the latest study commissioned by the American Health Information Management Association Foundation (AHIMA), the majority of Americans trust the Internet to understand medical information and leave their doctor’s office unsatisfied.
The study uncovered the following key findings:
- The majority of Americans don’t understand the information shared with them by their doctors during visits. This leaves many people in the dark about their health and when they need to make vital decisions.
- Americans rely on online information to improve their understanding of their health.
- Although medical records are an important component of public health management, millions of Americans struggle to access them and have questions about their security and certain risk factors.
Doctor-Patient Relationship in the Internet Age
The percentage of people who have access to health services is parallel to those who have access to the internet in the country. This explains why 94% of Americans turn to the internet and take their health management into their own hands.
Nearly 9 out of 10 Americans feel secure and confident in the information they find online. The reluctance in asking their doctors for further explanations or follow-up questions is one of the causes of the growing number of internet dependencies in terms of health.
“After searching on the Internet, many are empowered to take their health into their own hands. In fact, about 1 in 3 (31%) – or 42 million* – Americans report that when they seek out health information on the Internet, they end up feeling determined to make their health a priority and to seek answers from their doctor,” American Health Information Management Association Foundation stated.
An average American visits the doctor quarterly or more. Amidst the high number of doctor visits, approximately 37 million Americans said that they leave their doctor’s office confused and more unsure about their health than they were before the appointment.
Whenever they are in doubt about their doctor’s recommendation, the first thing that comes to mind is to consult the internet.
Confidence in Public Health Information
Furthermore, the lack of access to their medical records or the difficulty in finding it impedes the patient’s understanding of their health conditions which pushed them to pursue other methods such as browsing the internet.
Security Concerns on Electronic Patient Records
While a majority of the population uses a portal to access their health information, millions question its security. About 4 in 5 (81%) Americans utilize an online platform or portal to access their medical records or health information.
Among them, 21% – or nearly 42 million – are unaware of whether their information is shared with other people or organizations or if it is kept safe.
Disconnection of Younger Generations to Their Doctor
Results showed that people of high education and the majority of Millennials and Gen Z are unsatisfied or often hesitate to ask their doctors directly on their appointment.
Many patients from the younger generation do not feel positive about their doctor visits. This could be because they feel confused, unanswered, lack of clarity, or uncomfortable bringing up specific questions.
Failure to address or clarify their concerns about their health led to 86% of these generations relying on health-related internet information.
Internet vs Doctor: Both Must Go Hand in Hand
The study has proven the huge impact of the Internet age on modern medical practice providers. While it is possible to decrease the percentage of people who feel dissatisfied with their doctor’s appointment, it is impossible to stop their habit of searching the web about their health concerns.
Although seeking a medical professional’s advice is still the best thing to do when it comes to health-related queries, minimizing the bad effect of internet dependency is a significant step that healthcare professionals should consider.
The results should prompt the medical community to think of a way on how to turn this phenomenon to improve their patient care and engagement strategies. Improving their digital presence to disseminate the correct information and advice is also a significant step to deal with this growing number of patients depending on the internet for health information.
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