Kiwis Using The Internet To Find What Ails Them

Published: Sun 16 Dec 2007 04:05 PM
16 December 2007
News release
Kiwis Are Using The Internet To Find What Ails Them
Computer savvy New Zealanders are consulting the internet before visiting their own GP and using web based-research to challenge medical opinions, according to a survey conducted on behalf of the Southern Cross Medical Care Society.
The TNS Conversa survey shows 73% of respondents use the internet to gain access to health information and one in five take researched information with them to their GP’s appointment.
22% report challenging the advice or diagnosis of a doctor or medical professional, based on their own knowledge gained from the internet. This is despite a mere 1% of respondents reporting they “always” trusted health information from the web. When prescribed medicines, 41% go to the internet to learn more about the drugs they are taking.
Southern Cross Healthcare Group Chief Executive, Dr Ian McPherson, a former GP, said he had mixed feelings on these statistics.
“On one hand it’s concerning that people making their own diagnosis could be getting it very wrong. On the other hand it’s a positive sign that people are increasingly proactive about their health and are prepared to look for information which helps them have a constructive and more informed discussion with their GP. They are more likely to go to the doctor better prepared with questions.”
Dr McPherson said there was no harm in challenging a medical opinion, but he cautioned people not to put too much faith in the internet to self-diagnose.
“There are a number of reputable and authoritative sites on health information but there is also a lot of pseudoscience out there.
“Many illnesses can have similar symptoms and the internet can’t replace your doctor when it comes to making a fully informed individual diagnosis.”
Dr McPherson says Southern Cross’s own internet health information pages are becoming increasingly popular. “We are seeing up to 10,000 visits a month as a direct result of people using Google to search for information specific to a medical condition.
“Some of our health information pages that are most frequently visited include whooping cough, chickenpox, shingles, glandular fever, menopause, hysterectomy, endometriosis, stress, cholesterol and blood pressure management.
The survey results showed 66% of respondents sometimes trust health information on the web while 18% report almost always trusting it. A further 14% said they hardly ever trusted health information on the web, except on official sites. Only 1% regarded the web as an information resource that could always be trusted.
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Background information:
TNS Conversa surveyed 1505 Southern Cross members in August and September of 2007.
Southern Cross’ own website,, provides a comprehensive and medically-checked bank of information about medical conditions and procedures, as well as general information on health and wellbeing.
About Southern Cross Healthcare:
Southern Cross Healthcare is one of New Zealand’s best known and most trusted brands, offering a broad range of health-related services to New Zealanders since the early 1960s. The Southern Cross Healthcare Group consists of two separate organisations – Southern Cross Medical Care Society offering health insurance and related services, and Southern Cross Health Trust, operating 10 wholly-owned hospitals and three joint venture hospitals along with Southern Cross Travel Insurance.

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