Paging Dr. Google: More Americans Self-Diagnosing Online


Maybe it's because of the high cost of health care. Possibly it's due to more Americans having greater access to the Internet. But a new survey by the Pew Research Center reveals that as many as 35 percent of U.S. adults say they self-diagnose via information they have obtained online.

The survey results, published this morning, indicate that up to one-third of those surveyed who have self-diagnosed "end up handling their medical problem on their own."

But health care providers caution that individuals with a serious condition could go undetected or untreated. Secondly, they point to instances where individuals may have a more serious condition than they have self-diagnosed.

The survey shows most people, 77 percent, still start online medical searches with a search engine, such as Google or Bing, rather than a specific health site (13 percent) or social networks such as Facebook (1 percent).

The quality of information that people find through search engines can vary a lot and "there are risks," including finding inaccurate or scary information, or missing the best sources, said Rahul Parikh, a pediatrician in Walnut Creek, Calif. But, he added, "I would encourage people to search more, rather than less," and to keep talking to their doctors about what they find.