Healthcare Occurs Everywhere: Patients self-diagnosing on the Internet

This week I will analyze the pros/cons of patients being able to access health care information on the internet. There is potential risk of credibility and reliability of health care information found on the internet and there is a concern with self-diagnosis among patients (Weber, Derrico, Yoon, & Sherwill-Navarro, 2010). 58% of internet users seek health care information on the internet (Underhill & McKeown, 2008) and 86% of patients use the internet to search  for their health concerns (Chew & Eysenbach, 2010). With this high prevalence of health related internet use is this safe for our patients? How can we as healthcare providers protect our patients from misinformation found on the internet.


  • Improves patient-physician relationship (Tan & Goonawardene, 2017)
  • Social media can quickly spread health information to the public from credible resources (Chew & Eysenbach, 2010).
  • Healthcare providers can provide health teaching on credible resources on the internet (Weber et al., 2010).
  • Increase communication among patient – physician conversation (Weber et al., 2010).
  • Health information seeking can provide warning signs and symptoms of potential health concerns for patients (Weber et al., 2010).

CON OUtlook

  • Accuracy and reliability of health related information is questioned (Underhill & McKeown, 2008).
  • Social media can amplify or intensify pandemics (Chew & Eysenbach, 2010).
  • There is a lack of validity from internet users reading health information (Weber et al., 2010).
  • Patients may resort to web-based information instead of talking the their physicians (Weber et al., 2010).
  • Sites like Wiki can add, remove, or change content by any internet user affecting credibility (Weber et al., 2010).
  • Self-diagnosis can lead to inappropriate diagnosis, herbal or drug use, and ineffective self-treatment (Weber et al., 2010).
  • Patient may not be able to comprehend scientific articles found on the internet (Weber et al., 2010).
  • Websites containing healthcare information may be trying to sell products to the consumer which can mislead the reader to false tendencies (Weber et al., 2010).

As healthcare providers we should be open about the information found on the internet. According to Tan & Goonawardene (2017), patient internet use increases conversation and improves patient-physician relationship when concerns of internet findings are discussed. The internet can be a good source of information for patients if the patient is taught how to browse the internet and how to access and understand credible resources. According to Weber et al., (2010), the health care provider can teach the patients the following acronym GATOR when interpreting internet resources:

G- Genuine

A – Accurate

T- Trustworthy

O- Origin

R- Readability

Check out this video regarding patient self-diagnosing on the internet:


Chew, C., & Eysenbach, G. (2010). Pandemics in the age of Twitter: content analysis of Tweets during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. PloS One5(11), e14118. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014118

Tan, S. S., & Goonawardene, N. (2017). Internet Health Information Seeking and the Patient-Physician Relationship: A Systematic Review. Journal of medical Internet research19(1), e9. doi:10.2196/jmir.5729

Underhill, C. & McKeown, L. (2008). Getting a second opinion: Health information
and the Internet Statistics Canada, Health Reports, 19(1).  Retrieved from

Weber, B. A., Derrico, D. J., Yoon, S. L., & Sherwill-Navarro, P. (2010). Educating patients to evaluate web-based health care information: The GATOR approach to healthy surfing. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 19(9-10), 1371-1377. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2702.2008.02762.x

2 thoughts on “Healthcare Occurs Everywhere: Patients self-diagnosing on the Internet

  1. Hi! I have to ask, did you place the ad for the: Gut doctor “I beg Americans to throw out this vegetable now” in your discussion about obtaining health information on the internet? At first I thought you added it as an example, but then I saw more advertising and I started to wonder if it was targeted to the blog as you are discussing healthcare issues. This is the type of advertisement that I see so often online that I worry that even if health information is posted credibly and with good intent, what control is there regarding the quality of the advertisements that may follow. I fear that the ads popping up on a healthcare related topic could lend a false sense of credibility to the ads and lead people to choose linked information that is not high quality. This also makes me think about the targeted advertising that occurs now with our online presence. If clients are searching for health information, does this affect the proportion of health “advertising” information they are subjected to? “Internet is dominated by free web services that depend on advertising revenues and powerful marketing tools to support their business models. Targeted online advertising enables websites to increase their advertising revenues by selectively displaying advertisements according to users’ browsing behavior, sociodemographics, and interests” (Schumann, von Wangenheim & Groene, 2014, p59). We as nurses must consider teaching about advertising online as well when we are helping our clients navigate this complex sea of information.

    Schumann, J. H., von Wangenheim, F., & Groene, N. (2014). Targeted online advertising: Using reciprocity appeals to increase acceptance among users of free web services. Journal of Marketing, 78(1), 59–75. doi/10.1509/jm.11.0316

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Natalie !

    Thank you for your reply ! I can assure you I did not place the ad for gut doctor on my blog. This is so interesting about targeted online advertising. It makes so much sense in the marketing business to place health advertisements on health care blogs. It is so important to teach our patients about evidenced based information versus sources which are not credible and solely for business purposes.


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