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Meet the Cyberchondriacs

Who's Googling What?
 
Nurses know that their patients use the internet to gain insight into their health problems. Like it or not, online information is a major resource for the average person with health questions. Here are the latest facts about "cyberchondriacs," i.e., adults who go online for health information.
 
Millions of Americans are cyberchondriacs. How many, exactly? 150 million, which translates to 66 percent of all adults, went online to research healthcare topics in 2008. Approximately the same number of adults were cyberchondriacs in 2007, so the number is not increasing. Back in 1998, it was a mere 54 million Americans that were executing online health searches.
 
In a poll of 1,010 U.S. adults in 2008 by Harris Interactive, it was found that cyberchondriacs look for healthcare information online 4.8 times per month. The overwhelming majority of them believe that the information they obtain is reliable (86%) and report that they were successful (89%) in their search.
 
Twenty-five percent of those who use the internet go online for healthcare information "often," while the rest claim to only search online health topics "sometimes" or "hardly ever."
 
They Reveal What They've Googled?
 
What do patients tell healthcare providers about the info they learned online? Well, only 47 percent of cyberchondriacs discuss the information they obtained with their healthcare providers. And you can bet their googling as soon as they leave their appointment. Forty-nine percent go online to look for info as a result of discussions with their doctors.
 
Vision for Online Health Info
 
The Harris PollChair, Humphrey Taylor, says, "The rapid growth in the number of cyberchondriacs seems to have plateaued, but we do not know if this pause is temporary or more permanent. Influential experts have supported the widespread use of the internet as a way to improve the quality of healthcare. This survey confirms that the internet continues to be an important source of health care information for very large numbers of people, and most people trust the information they obtain and find useful." 
 
Nurses need to be ready to guide patients to reliable sites to ensure the best possible outcome in addressing healthcare concerns. People are going to go online, so direct them to the right place.
 
For more healthcare news, visit Healthcare News at www.harrisinteractive.com/news.

By Adam Herschkowitz
Get Nursing Jobs, Contributing Editor

Source: Healthcare News (Vol. 8, Issue 8, Aug. 20, 2008) “Number of ‘Cyberchondriacs’ – Adults Going Online for Health Information – Has Plateaued or Declined.” Harris Interactive Inc. All rights reserved.

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