Do Patients Trust Their Doctor or Health Related Websites More?

Posted on February 22, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of and John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Philips has really been killing it on Twitter leading up to HIMSS 2016 in Las Vegas. Plus, they’ve been making a number of big announcements in the healthcare space as well. While they’ve always been quite big in the radiology and device space, it’s interesting to see Philips enter other healthcare IT spaces. For example, Philips recently announced a collaboration with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to offer a secure data recover service.

Philips’ announcements aside, I was intrigued by this image and tweet that Philips recently shared:
Philips Health - Trust Doctors or Websites

I was trying to reconcile this data with the all too common high percentages of people that are searching Dr. Google for health information. First, it’s worth noting that it says “health-related websites” and not a search result found on Google. I wonder how different this percentage would be if they’d asked if they trust a search engine result for health information. I could see many not trusting the former, but many trusting the later.

The other thing I think applies is that even though we read a health related website, that doesn’t mean we trust it. I think many of us treat health related websites with the “trust but verify” approach. We’ve become very sophisticated at triangulating data across websites, social media, and yes, our doctor. We’re no longer simplistic creatures that blindly go to the doctor and trust whatever they say. We triangulate what we hear from all of these sources and apply a trust value to each.

In this complex calculation, I think that most of us do trust our doctor generally more than what we read from our friends on social media and on health-related websites. We should. Doctors spent a lot of time in school and have a lot more experience treating patients. Hopefully, our outside research will deepen the discussion and trust we have with the doctor.

I recently read an incredible quote from Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson (Better known as @SeattleMamaDoc):

If it offended me, I would be a total moron! I think that any physician that would be upset by a patient going online doing personal research and bringing those care points to the visit really better question what’s going on in their mind.

I’d argue that doctors that don’t want you collaborating in your care and researching out your health likely shouldn’t be trusted. I also feel it’s important to point out that this doesn’t mean that the patient should be disrespectful or arrogant or mean to their doctor who disagrees with their research. Outside information is not an excuse for being a jerk. However, patients should use every resource they have to make sure they receive the best care possible and the answers to the questions they have about their care.

The best way a doctor can improve a patients trust in them is to collaborate with the patient in their care. Patients generally trust their doctor more than online health resources. However, that could change if doctors don’t see patients as collaborators in their care.