Survey: Docs increasingly use online search engines to make clinical decisions

Doctors are Googling a lot more than you might think. A majority of physicians--78 percent--who responded to a survey from MedData said they use search engines to help them make clinical decisions.

And the biggest hurdle to the "Health 2.0" movement is that patients often misinterpret what they read online, causing tension in the doctor-patient relationship. Web-based resources having inaccurate content comes closely behind, according to the survey, which had 164 responses.

Of web-based tools used by physicians in supporting their medical decision-making process, search engines were the top choice--trailing much further behind were informational or industry-specific email, HIPAA-secure online physician communities and social media, which had the lowest response.

In those web searches, physicians most often access clinical case studies and research reports; less often, they seek out instructional videos, whitepapers and webcasts.

U.S. consumers spend roughly 52 hours a year--one hour per week--searching online for health information, as reported last fall, while in-person doctor visits occur three times annually, according to a new survey conducted by healthcare marketing firm Makovsky Health and research consultancy Kelton.

Though it should be tailored for physicians, as well, online health information can be very useful. In late 2012, a survey published in the Journal of Communication found that 11 percent of respondents said they would be dead or severely incapacitated if not for information they found online. In the same survey, 41 percent said they were comfortable checking their own symptoms using websites.

Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine last July, however, found that health websites often share user search terms for advertising purposes.

To learn more:
- see the full survey results