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People Still Trust Their Doctors Rather Than the Internet
Date:3/3/2010

They'll go online first, but turn to physicians for final decisions, survey shows

WEDNESDAY, March 3 (HealthDay News) -- The Internet has made vast amounts of health information available to the general public, but all that virtual "noise" has made people more likely than ever to trust their doctor with medical decisions, a new survey finds.

"As the environment gets noisier, the more you need the physician to help you decipher that noise," explained Bradford W. Hesse, one of three researchers from the U.S. National Cancer Institute who produced the survey. "Part of noise is there's good information and there's bad information. We have a hard time understanding which is which. But doctors are credible. They've gone through a lot of training, and they can help you sort the good information from the bad."

Published in the March 4 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, the survey of nearly 16,000 people over seven years found that:

  • People's trust in physicians has increased with the ascent of the Internet, while their trust in Internet information has declined slightly over time. Simultaneously, their trust in other sources of health information such as television has plummeted.
  • By a large margin, people take their health questions to the Internet first, performing their own research. Then they take that information to their doctor for discussion.
  • Increasing numbers of people are using e-mail to communicate with their physicians directly.

The study dovetails with previous research showing that the Internet is not replacing the role of doctors in people's health, said Susannah Fox, an associate director of the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

Some people had been concerned that the Internet would supplant people's need to visit the doctor, much as Web sites have replaced local travel agents and print newspapers for many,
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