According to Amednews staff writer Pamela Lewis Dolan in a post 12.26 entitled “why patients are turning less to media and friends for health information”, interest in finding information relating to their health has declined along with visits to doctors.

The following is what she has to say-

The waning interest in information-seeking as patient visits fall is what the Center for Studying Health System Change called a “surprising” conclusion to a survey of 17,000 patients released in November. Visits to physicians dropped 4% between 2007 and 2010. Meanwhile, the percentage of American adults seeking information about a personal health concern in the previous 12 months decreased from 55.5% to 50% in the same period, it said.

Analysts said there probably are multiple reasons for that. The trend could reflect that when patients are less able to see a physician, they are less likely to be engaged in their health. It could be that with physician visits down, patients have more time to spend with their doctor, meaning they have less of a need for outside sources of information.

And they said the decline could reflect that so much information is available — and so much of it conflicting — that some overwhelmed patients may be opting out altogether from researching their health.

For physicians, analysts said, the implication of the study is that when patients come into their offices, they are going to rely on them more than ever for help in managing their health.

1 in 5 patients has delayed or canceled a doctor visit, medical test or procedure in the past year.

The sources of information the center studied were the Internet, print media, television and radio, and friends and relatives. Internet was the only source that went up, to 32.6% from 31.1%. But center researcher Ha T. Tu wrote that the growth failed to keep pace with a strong rise in residential broadband Internet access, which went up from 47% to 66% between 2007 and 2010.

The center’s study did not ask why people did or did not seek health information. However, Tu wrote, “One would expect to see … consumers — those cutting back on health care because of cost concerns — increasing their health information seeking as a substitute for obtaining information from clinicians.” She wrote that patients’ greater financial responsibility for care — borne out in numerous surveys — would motivate them to seek health information, “especially about treatment options and costs.”

But, as the center discovered, the opposite is happening.

One theory is that if patients don’t feel confident in their ability to pay for their health care, they will not only stay away from the physicians’ office, they also will take less action regarding their health overall.

Paul Keckley, PhD, executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, said he was not surprised that fewer people were looking for health information. Deloitte’s research has found that because of the economy, one in five patients has delayed or canceled a visit, test or procedure in the past year.

“The data does not show that when you delay a procedure, you go online to see if there are any adverse consequences of delay,” he said. In fact, the number of consumers who go to the Web with the sole purpose of seeking help with a health care decision is fewer than one in 10, Keckley said.

Nearly 90% of patients believe doctors are the most credible source of health information.

Tu has an additional theory: With fewer people seeking cheap ventolin hfa care from physicians as a result of the economy, those who see a doctor might have more time in the exam room. “This decline in system-related barriers to care may have reduced some consumers’ need or motivation for obtaining health information on their own,” she wrote.

Tu offered another theory put forth by other analysts — that information overload has driven some patients away from researching their health.

From 2001 to 2007, the percentage of consumers seeking health information in the previous 12 months jumped from 38.8% to 55.5%. Searching online, which went up from 15.9% to 31.1% in that period, fueled much of the growth. However, more people also sought information from print media, friends and relatives, and TV and radio.

Tu wrote that she wasn’t surprised by declines from 2007 to 2010 in print media (32.9% to 18.2%) and TV and radio (15.6% to 10%), because those forms of communication have become less popular compared with the Internet. But Internet searching barely budged — and information from friends and relatives fell from 30.8% to 29.3% — reflecting that some consumers may be suffering from “information overload, anxiety and confusion.”

It’s not only the volume of information, but also its perceived trustworthiness. Tu cited a National Cancer Institute trend survey finding that nearly half of those who sought cancer-related information online were frustrated by the search, nearly three in five were skeptical of the quality of the information they uncovered, and nearly two in five said the results were too difficult to understand.

Yinjiao Ye, PhD, assistant professor in the Dept. of Communication Studies at the University of Rhode Island, has studied the correlation between a patient’s confidence in managing his or her health and the quality of online information. She found that the higher consumers’ trust in the information they seek online, the higher their confidence. Therefore, a lower level of trust could explain why fewer people seek information to help manage their health.

The Center for Studying Health System Change report noted that the decline in information-seeking overall was noted among all demographic groups studied, with the most pronounced decline being among the elderly, people with chronic conditions and people with less education — “some of the more vulnerable subgroups that might most benefit from health information.” However, the report said people with multiple chronic conditions were still among the most likely to seek health information, as were people who had graduated from college.

One source of information has remained reliable and sought by patients: physicians.

The Edeleman Health Barometer 2011, a survey of 15,000 people in 12 countries published in October, found that 88% believe physicians are the most credible source of information.

“The message for physicians, in my own research and the [HSC] report, is that physicians are not replaceable … by the existence of online health information and online social support for patients and their caregiver,” Ye said. “Even though patients can seek health information from many sources and can seek social support from others online and offline, physicians are still very important for personal health management.”


Information sites supplying medical information are still thriving.  Perhaps the reason for physician consultations have declined is because the information is so readily available on the net.  One of the outstanding positions that physicians may be called on to fill in the future is that of interpreter or liaison between all the information ( or misinformation) being put out on the net and the patients themselves.

What is your view?