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24-10-2012 | General practice | Article

Patient ‘Googling’ aids GP consultation



medwireNews: GPs should not be put off by patients 'Googling' their symptoms on the internet to try to find out what is wrong with them, suggests research showing that this often helps them to get the most out of a GP consultation.

Researchers interviewed 26 patients about their positive and negative experiences from doing internet research before a GP appointment.

They found that in general patients did this to make sure that a consultation was necessary in the first place and if so, how urgently. Patients also felt that taking the information to the consultation helped them to communicate their concerns more effectively and to get their GP to take their problem seriously, as well as showing that they are willing to take responsibility for their health.

The study found that patients still valued and trusted their GP's opinion over and above the internet information, provided they were able to have an adequate discussion.

Some patients reported feeling apprehensive about telling their GP what they already knew from internet research, worrying that this might make the doctor feel undermined or challenged. As a result, they were careful to present the information in a nonthreatening manner.

And there were some reports of GPs dismissing the patient's views and being unwilling to admit a lack of knowledge, adopting a patriarchal 'doctor knows best' attitude.

The authors, led by Dr Parvathy Bowes (University College London), acknowledge that the research is subjective, being based on reported experiences, and also caution that their interviewee sample included "a preponderance of highly educated people".

But they conclude that "GPs should feel encouraged by the findings, knowing that patients value their clinical expertise and that their existing communication skills of listening to patients and engaging with their agenda can help them respond appropriately to patients".

medwireNews ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Caroline Price