Too Many Patients Diagnose Themselves and Get It Wrong

Survey finds that 97% of family physicians believe that patients visit them armed with erroneous info pulled from the web.

A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing and the operative word in that cliché is “can.” Because a little knowledge can also have good benefits. That’s the takeaway from a survey of 240 family physicians (FPs) by Merck Manuals. The survey was taken during the AAFP Family Medicine Experience in New Orleans in October. “While the ease and availability of online medical information instills confidence in family physicians, they believe ‘Dr. Google’ has the potential to introduce anxiety among patients,” said Robert Porter, MD, editor-in-chief of Merck Manuals..

Seventy-nine percent of FPs thought that the easy access to medical data made it more likely that patients would question the doctors’ diagnosis or recommendation.

Access to online information had some positive effects, with 60% of the FPs saying that the frequency of patient visits rose because of information the patients found online. In addition, 64% of FPs thought that the online info made patients more fluid in medical topics.