College advises patients to be cautious about using 'Dr Google' to diagnose themselves

Publication date: 16 May 2017

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP, has advised patients to exercise caution when searching the internet for health information, in response to a study published in the BJGP Open today on "Dr Google".

She said: “We encourage all of our patients to take an active interest in their own health, and high quality, unbiased health websites such as NHS Choices, which are approved by clinicians and contain reliable information, can be really useful for patients.
 
“But in the same way, unverified websites may give out misleading, superfluous or incorrect information, and cause our patients needless worry or conversely provide inappropriate reassurance. This could then lead to them into booking an unnecessary appointment with their GP, at a time when general practice is already struggling to cope with soaring patient demand in recent years, or not seeking advice when its actually appropriate to do so.
 
“We would certainly advise caution about patients using ‘Dr Google’ to diagnose themselves – searching the internet is no substitute for a discussion with a GP as we are highly trained to take into account the physical, psychological and social factors affecting a patient’s health and wellbeing when making a diagnosis.
 
“If a patient has consulted a reliable site and is still worried about their health, they should seek advice from their GP practice or local pharmacy.”

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659
press@rcgp.org.uk

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.

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