People want more than just information online, they also seek reflections, insights and practical advice from other patients.

This study examined interviews with patients conducted between 2001 and 2013 and explored how people talked over internet about capturing and their changing attitudes towards the use of internet for health.

"By 2013, the web has become an almost routine part of many people's experience of health and illness. The internet has transformed how people make sense of and respond to symptoms, decide whether to consult, make treatment choice, cope with their illness and connect to others," said professor Sue Ziebland from the University of Oxford.

Film, animations, sound, pictures and personal experiences online make health information more digestible for people from all backgrounds.

"By helping people to learn about their condition, prepare for consultations and demonstrate to doctors their interest and involvement, the web may even help to undermine some health inequalities," Ziebland added.

Doctors are aware of this and recommend useful websites to their patients now.

Yet, patients were reluctant to talk to their doctors about what they find online, fearing that such revelations might damage their relationship with their doctor, the study noted.

"Physicians and nurses who recognise that people are using the Internet when they are ill can support and discuss the information with their patients," Ziebland said during a South West Society for Academic Primary Care meeting at the University of Bristol, Britain.


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