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.
"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."