Study finds 89% of US citizens turn to Google before their doctor

Updated: Jun. 24, 2019 at 6:56 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A recent study by found 89 percent of patients nationwide Google their health symptoms before going to their doctor.

Kim Martin, a physician’s assistant at Masonboro Family Medicine, finds that number to be believable.

“I spend most of my time explaining what they don’t have, versus telling them what they do have,” Martin said. “A lot of times I have to do a lot of reasoning of why you don’t have this and that. I have to give that explanation versus actually explaining what they do have.”

According to the study, respondents said they wanted to find out the severity of their health condition before going to a doctor.

While Martin appreciates her patients taking interest in their own health, she says Googling symptoms often leads to anxiety.

“They come in and are like, ‘Oh, I don’t have cancer? Thank gosh,’" Martin said. “It’s like, ‘No, it’s not (cancer). It’s an ingrown hair,’ or whatever. But absolutely, they get themselves very anxious about it.”

Martin said under certain circumstances, Googling symptoms before seeing a doctor can be beneficial.

“The Mayo Clinic website, WebMD, all of those are good," Martin said. "A lot of it may be outside of their understanding a little bit but I definitely feel like they need to see that common link between those websites and then they might have the right information.”

Martin recommends checking with multiple sites to verify information and seeing something on just one site may not be enough.

She does encourage her patients to research conditions and diagnoses following a doctor’s visit.

“If I’ve diagnosed somebody with something new, light high blood pressure, in those cases I love for them to go and research it and say, ‘OK, I know how my medicine works and what kind of diet I should be on and what type of activities I should be participating in,’ and that’s when I find it super beneficial," Martin said. "Then they can take a proactive approach.”

The study found in North Carolina, the top searched symptom was loss of sleep.

“We have a huge number of people who have issues with sleep so that’s really common," Martin said. "I would say another one is fatigue. I’m sure people Google fatigue a lot, and weight, weight gain, those are the three I would guess people look up the most.”

Overall, Martin said it is always best to visit a healthcare professional instead of trying to self diagnose.

“Go make an appointment and check it out, but I do recommend going in informed," Martin said. “But realize that there’s a good likelihood that you have misdiagnosed yourself. So just be patient and if the diagnosis isn’t correct and we go on to do different testing, and it turns out to be something else, but I feel like people chase down that wrong avenue so much of the time.”

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