Online research: Doubting their doctors

August 22, 2008

Nearly four out of 10 adults have doubted a medical professional's opinion or diagnosis because it conflicted with information they found online, according to a report from Envisions Solutions, a health care consulting firm.

Nearly four out of 10 adults have doubted a medical professional’s opinion or diagnosis because it conflicted with information they found online, according to a report from Envisions Solutions, a health care consulting firm.  The younger the health care consumer, the more likely they are to be skeptical of their care providers.

Forty-three percent of patients aged 18 to 34 have doubted their medical providers opinions due to a contradiction with online information, while only 27 percent of respondents aged 65 and older have done so. Overall, 38 percent said they’ve experienced doubts after their providers’ opinion conflicted with information they’d read online, the report says.

Still, medical professionals remain the most trusted source of information for consumers. Forty-two percent of respondents said they’d first go to their health care provider when seeking advice on how to deal with a “mild” medical condition. Friends and family came in next at 24 percent.

Not surprisingly, consumers’ trust of medical professionals’ advice increases as their medical conditions get more serious. Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they’d first consult their providers when looking for advice on how to deal with a “serious” condition.

“While they instinctively trust medical professionals, most (health care consumers) are actively comparing and contrasting advice by physicians and nurses with what they find online,” the report says.

Doctors may have a particularly tough time winning the trust of Hispanics. Just 34 percent of Hispanics said they’d consult their health care providers first when experiencing a medical problem, compared with more than 60 percent for both whites and blacks. Hispanics are much more likely to first consult their friends and family.

The report was based on a July survey of 1,000 U.S. adults conducted by a polling firm hired by Envision.