Australians are risking their health by relying on unreliable online information to self-diagnose medical conditions, potentially causing them to dismiss serious symptoms or seek inappropriate treatments.
International Bupa Health Pulse* research has found that of the nearly 80% of Australians who admitted to going online for health information, nearly half (47%) look for information to make a self-diagnosis while 70% use the internet to research medicines.
Australians also have a desire to use online sources to help them manage their own health, with 61% of respondents supportive of having access to a secure internet site where they can access their own medical records and test results online.
Dr Christine Bennett, Chief Medical Officer of Bupa Australia, said the results highlight the importance of people accessing online information from high-quality, credible resources.
“While the internet undoubtedly provides people with greater access to resources, it’s essential that they access high-quality websites and content to empower them to make informed decisions about their health,” she said.
“A simple search for the same symptom can often generate quite different diagnoses across different websites, which may result in people dismissing serious symptoms or commencing inappropriate treatments,” Bennett said.
Bupa Health Pulse used a search engine to look-up a number of different symptoms. The risks of self-diagnosing online were clear – entering one symptom led to three different websites, providing very different results:
|Symptom||Potential health conditions suggested by different websites for one symptom|
|Website A||Website B||Website C|
|Pins and needles||Vitamin B12 deficiency||Sciatica||Multiple Sclerosis (MS)|
|Stomach cramps||Indigestion||Appendicitis||Heart disease or angina|
|Earache||Common cold||Ear infection||Brain abscess|
|Rash||Contact dermatitis||Psoriasis or eczema||Meningitis|
Other key findings from Bupa Health Pulse included:
Bupa’s tips when looking for health information online:
The following websites provide health and wellness information:
View the London School of Economics report Online Health: Untangling the Web (PDF 1.1Mb)
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Notes to Editors:
*Ipsos MORI interviewed 12,262 members of the general public across 12 countries for Bupa Health Pulse between 10 June and 14 July 2010. These were: Australia, Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Russia, Spain, UK and USA. All interviews took place through Ipsos online panels and Ipsos panel partners.
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About Bupa Australia Bupa Australia Pty Ltd (“Bupa Australia”) is a leading healthcare company. With a presence in every Australian state and territory, the company operates under the brands, MBF, HBA, and Mutual Community, proudly covering more than three million Australians.
Bupa Australia is focused on providing sustainable health insurance that represent real value to customers, and on leading the industry in the promotion of preventive health and wellness. Bupa Australia’s products and services include cover for hospital, medical, ancillary and ambulance services, as well as travel, life, and home insurance, and access to life insurance products.
As part of the international Bupa Group, Bupa Australia draws on the strength and expertise of an international healthcare leader. The Bupa Group covers more than10 million people in approximately 190 countries and provides other health and financial services to many more millions of customers around the globe.