MORE than 70 per cent of Tauranga women search medical symptoms online, a new survey shows.

Southern Cross Healthcare Group research showed 71 per cent of Tauranga women and 47 per cent of Tauranga men had searched the internet or social media for information about health.

Seventeen per cent of these men and six per cent of these women did not visit their GP as a result of the information.

Tauriko's Claire Rarere searched the internet on the weekend after her 15-year-old son broke out in a rash.


"I looked online about insect bites. I took him to the doctor and looked online after that," Miss Rarere said.

"I wouldn't look online at symptoms too often, mainly for rashes and visible symptoms. I'll even do it sometimes after I've already been to the doctor. I will look up to see what's going on and get a better understanding about it."

Bay of Plenty District Health Board GP liaison Joe Bourne, who also worked for Nga Kakano Foundation Family Health Services in Te Puke, said more people were visiting GP's surgeries after conducted their own research. He did not know whether this had affected visit numbers.

"In general it's a good thing for people to have knowledge and be more empowered. "The challenge is finding reputable sources of information ..."

Being registered with a general practice gave a GP insight into a person's whole health history and could give more relevant advice for a patient, Dr Bourne said.

The internet could provide a wealth of information on health issues but it needed to be treated with caution, Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners medical director Samantha Murton said.

"GPs are always willing to speak to their patients about any concerns they may have and we would always advise them to contact their doctor if they do have queries about possible symptoms they have found on-line," Dr Murton said.

Ministry of Health chief medical officer Don Mackie said a wide range of material was available on the internet for people seeking information on medical conditions or symptoms but people should be careful to make sure the information was from a reputable medical website.