Despite increase in online searches for medical info, patients' trust remains with docs

Patients may have more access to health information than ever before thanks to the Internet, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they trust the information they receive. A survey published in today's New England Journal of Medicine concludes that not only do people trust doctors for health information more than ever, they also have grown increasingly skeptical about health information obtained online. 

Despite those findings, the survey also found that more people turn to the Internet first, then relay that information to their doctors. The survey was conducted over a seven-year span, from 2002 to 2008, and included roughly 16,000 people.

Dr. Bradford W. Hesse of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, one of the study's three researchers, explained to HealthDay that because more information--both good and bad--is out floating around on the Internet, people are becoming more confused about what to believe. 

"As the environment gets noisier, the more you need the physician to help you decipher that noise," Hesse said. "[D]octors are credible. They've gone through a lot of training, and they can help you sort the good information from the bad."

Susannah Fox, an associate director with the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, called doctor's appointments "an institution that will not budge," no matter how much information they can obtain independently.

"People still want someone to help guide them when they're making decisions about an acute disease or managing chronic illness," Fox said. 

For more information:
- read this HealthDay article
- here's the survey in the New England Journal of Medicine