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

Hesse and Fox said.

This latest research reveals the opposite is occurring.

"There are some institutions that will not budge," Fox said. "The doctor's appointment is an institution that will not budge. People still want someone to help guide them when they're making decisions about an acute disease or managing a chronic illness."

However, the study also shows that people are getting some use from Internet-provided medical information. They are using the Internet as a first source for health questions, for one thing.

"They use both channels," Hesse said. "They go to the Internet first because it's the easy thing to get to, but then they go to the doctor and follow up."

People also are using Web sites to get answers for questions they feel are too minor to bring to their doctor, Fox said.

"When these health questions pop up in people's lives, often they do want to talk to a doctor," Fox said. "But if it's after office hours or a question that doesn't necessarily need expert advice, there are decisions that can be made using information found on the Internet. On the big decisions, for example diagnosis and treatment decisions, people are still relying on health professionals to help them make those very high-stakes decisions."

The increase in e-mail correspondence with physicians, along with a large decrease in people's trust in other sources of information, point to an increasing role the Internet will have in health care, even if that role will remain supplemental to a doctor's authority, Fox said.

"The key is making sure we understand that as mobile devices and broadband proliferate, the conversation is increasingly happening online," she said.

The findings also point to an evolving model of preventive medical care where a person's family physician takes on the role of a "coach," guiding self-motivated patients to better health through their advice and judgment, Hesse said.'/>"/>

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