Science & Tech

Physicians vs. the Internet

1 min read

Where patients are getting health information

Each day, about 7.5 million people in the United States use the Internet to get health information, while less than 3 million consult their doctors. Of the 110 million Americans who surf the Internet, more than 60 percent use it for health advice. But many doctors are worried because they believe there is much misinformation in cyberspace. There is reason for concern. According to one study that is currently in press, the accuracy and completeness of health information on the Internet ranges from 15 to 85 percent, depending on the site. The startling figures were relayed by Tom Ferguson, senior research fellow for online health at the Pew Internet and American Life Project in Washington, D.C., during a recent lecture at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). Ferguson is also senior associate at Boston’s Center for Clinical Computing, a medical computing think-tank associated with Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital. “The idea of using technology to promote health care and health education is critically important,” said Karen Emmons, an associate professor in the HSPH Department of Health and Social Behavior, who helped organize the lecture. “The landscape has changed dramatically, and we need to change with it.”