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Patients go online but don't trust the info -

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ELEANOR HALL: A survey has revealed that increasing numbers of Australians are turning to the
Internet to find out about their health problems. But the research has found that few of them trust
the online information and even fewer are prepared to talk to their GPs about their Internet
research.

Now there are calls for doctors to get on the front foot and actively refer patients to credible
health websites with expert advice on how to manage their illnesses. Emily Bourke has our story.

EMILY BOURKE: A study of more than 700 Australians has found logging on to health and medical
websites is increasingly common especially among those aged under 45, the university educated and
those in mid-to-high socio-economic communities.

Dr Jared Dart from iHealth Solutions consultancy conducted the research.

JARED DART: Interestingly most people don't trust information they obtain over the Internet. My
survey had 718 respondents and hardly any of them trusted the information they obtained. But
unfortunately only 17 per cent of them took that information to the doctor for vetting. So I think
people are using the Internet but not even though they're trusting it.

EMILY BOURKE: So, what's the best use then of the Internet in a medical setting?

JARED DART: My approach is to suggest that the Internet should be used to provide information to
management health information so, teach people how to look after their health conditions, not
diagnosis. And the best way to facilitate that is to have the health professionals like the doctors
prescribing the information, same way they prescribe a medication.

So they can say Mr Jones you've got diabetes and heart failure I suggest that you read up on you
know, weight loss, quitting your smoking and these are the symptoms of your heart condition and how
to manage them.

EMILY BOURKE: The study also found older and poorer Australians have limited access to health
information on the Internet, the same groups that are at greater risk of developing a preventable
illnesses.

According to Dr Tony Hobbs, the chairman of the Australian GPs Network. The same applies in rural
and regional areas. But he says using the Internet as a tool to manage medical conditions will
become more important for isolated communities.

TONY HOBBS: And certainly from my own experience when that happens I actually find it quite
stimulating to have a patient actually bring some information to me and say, well what do you think
about this?

Let's have a discussion about this. What do you think about this particular drug in the management
of my particular condition.

And certainly again as we move forward and more patients do have chronic and complex conditions, we
want that partnership arrangement so it's the GP working with the individual patient and their
family to help them better manage those conditions that they may have.

EMILY BOURKE: Professor Stephen Leeder from the Menzies Centre for Health Policy at the University
of Sydney says web-based health care has some way to go.

STEPHEN LEEDER: The doctor of the future is going to be someone who is a guide and councillor and
can give people the skills to make increasingly their own decisions about what it is that they want
to do and want to have done for them. So this is much more empowering of the patient and the carers
so that they share in the information that once upon a time was secret doctors business.

The citizen of the future needs an educational base that will equip them to sort through truth from
rubbish as presented to them by the web and by various other technologies such as G-nome
sequencing. This is a big challenge for society, a big challenge for the medical profession, a big
challenge to the bureaucracy that look after health service and one that I think will be critical
to maintaining the health of the nation in the next 20 to 40 years.

ELEANOR HALL: Professor Stephen Leeder from the Menzies Centre for Health Policy at the University
of Sydney and he was speaking to Emily Bourke.