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Use and Significance of Expert Medical Advice on the Internet: Results of an Online Survey Among Users of German-Language Health Portals

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Abstract

Introduction: Despite the continuing ban on the exclusive use of remote medical treatment in Germany, more and more patients are making use of expert medical advice on the internet. This study explores what motivates patients to seek online medical advice and the implications for the doctor-patient relationship. The focus is on general medical care. Method: The survey is an exploratory investigation that does not claim to be representative. 207 users of eleven German-language health and advice portals were interviewed via online survey. In addition to descriptive analysis, a T-test for independent samples was used to identify significant differences between two groups. Where there were more than two groups, a simple variance analysis was performed. Two significance levels were tested (mean difference at level p < .05 and p < .001). Results: The majority of the surveyed users of health portals also make use of online advice. There is a surprisingly positive assessment of expert medical advice on the internet. Although there is often insufficient information on the identity and qualifications of medical experts, such experts are trusted. The findings show that online medical consultations can both support and weaken the doctor-patient relationship. It is significant that, for some of the respondents, there are signs of increasing uncertainty due to the use of these services (for example due to conflicting advice). Discussion: Based on the results of the survey, the authors argue that the issue of online research should be actively addressed during the patient consultation in order to prevent possible negative consequences for the doctor-patient relationship. In addition, it seems advisable to give more emphasis to this issue during training. Last but not least, improvements in the quality and transparency of online medical advice services should be considered.

Keywords

  • Expert medical advice
  • doctor-patient-relationship
  • health information
  • Health anxieties
  • Primary care

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Wangler, J., Jansky, M. (2022). Use and Significance of Expert Medical Advice on the Internet: Results of an Online Survey Among Users of German-Language Health Portals. In: Cassens, M., Kollányi, Z., Tsenov, A. (eds) Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Public Health in Europe. FOM-Edition(). Springer Gabler, Wiesbaden. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-658-33740-7_10

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