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A decade ago, the GPs we spoke to believed around 15% of their patients were self-diagnosing (looking for information to find out what’s wrong) about their condition before visiting the surgery. Perhaps not surprisingly, with such easy access to the internet and mobile data, this behaviour has changed dramatically over the last ten years.

Two thirds of the GPs we spoke to had seen an increase in this trend, and almost half the patients we spoke to (44%) said they looked online for information about an illness or injury before visiting their GP. However, almost 70% of the GPs we canvassed thought their patients’ behaviour had had a positive impact on their subsequent health.

The Health of the Nation Study is designed to collate views, canvas opinions, and harvest data that gives us a better insight to the general practice landscape: how GPs are working, what they think, and what their – and their patients’ – perceptions are of this entry point into the NHS. Occasionally we find conflicting opinions. In this study, it was very interesting to note that our GPs’ perception of how many people are researching their symptoms is starkly different to what we’ve been told.

  • 75% of the patients we spoke to told us they were self-diagnosing before seeing a doctor. But although 82% of GPs have seen an upward trend in people looking for information, but only 5% of GPs believed that as many as three-quarters of their patients were self-diagnosing prior to an appointment.
  • Only 13% of GPs believed half their patients were looking for information, and 67% thought a quarter of their patients or fewer would self-diagnose in advance.

Our research shows that although patients are largely willing to self-diagnose, they’re also far less than likely to share the fact they’ve done so, with their GP.

Find out why patients delay going to see their GP.
Discover who goes to the GP most – men, or women.
Read the statistics: how many women self-check for breast cancer?
Download our 2013 Health of the Nation report now (PDF 3,622KB)

WC01512 07/2013