Most people who use Dr Google to look up symptoms before heading to the emergency department actually have better interactions with their treating doctor, a University of Melbourne study shows.
The study, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, showed that internet searches also did not "adversely affect their compliance with prescribed treatments".
A survey was given to 400 adults that came through the emergency departments at St Vincent's Hospital Melbourne and Austin Health over 4 months in 2017.
"Searching for online health information had a positive impact on the doctor-patient relationship, particularly for patients with greater e-health literacy, and was unlikely to cause patients to doubt the diagnosis by a practitioner or to affect adherence to treatment," St Vincent's Melbourne medical intern Dr Anthony Cocco said.
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"We therefore suggest that doctors acknowledge and be prepared to discuss with adult ED patients their online searches for health information."
Searching had a net positive effect for 150 searchers or 77.3 per cent; a net negative effect was reported by 32 searchers, 16 per cent, while no effect was reported by 14 participants or 7 per cent.
The majority of participants, 77.3 per cent, agreed or strongly agreed that searching what was wrong helped them communicate more effectively with their health provider.
A large portion, 79.5 per cent, also agreed or strongly agreed searching helped them better understand their health provider during a consultation.
"A total of 153 respondents indicated that internet-derived health information never or rarely led them to doubt their diagnosis or treatment; 174 had never or rarely changed a treatment plan advised by a doctor because of online health information.
"However, 76 respondents, 40 per cent, agreed or strongly agreed that gathering information from the internet made them worried or anxious."