Survey reveals 30% of women only visit the Doctor as a last resort because of waiting times

The results of a small survey of women by BBI Healthcare brand Balance Activ and reported in the Telegraph has suggested that:

> 50% of women have diagnosed themselves online and bought a treatment without checking with pharmacists if it is the correct product
> ~50% of women said they would seek to treat medical problems themselves before consulting doctors
> 33% of women said the wait for answers from a doctor led them to look online for guidance
> 33% of women said they had spent at least 2 weeks with a medical problem before speaking to a doctor
> 30% of women said that because of waiting times they only visit the Doctor as a last resort
> 25% of women said they “dread” speaking to doctors
> 25% of women have bought the wrong medication after misdiagnosing themselves on the internet
> 20% of women have at some time suspected they had a serious disease & the most common false alarm came over breast cancer
> 10% of women have suffered unpleasant side effects as a result of misdiagnosing themselves on the internet
> 10% of women said they hesitated to discuss health problems with family because they did not want “a fuss”
> 5% of women said they’d spent more than a year enduring symptoms before seeking medical help

My thoughts:

1) Although the findings are consistent with online health information seeking behaviour research by organisations like Pew Research we should be careful reading too much into this small study as it’s small, hasn’t been published in much detail and plays directly to the commercial interests of the company’s online Symptom Checker.

2) I wonder how much the skills of online healthcare information seeking patients are changing over the years? Are patients getting better at self diagnosis? Is internet content becoming more/less helpful?

3) I’m not sure if the research rules out anything about the treatment choices for children? If behind these stats we have a situation where 10% of women noticed unpleasant side effects as a result of misdiagnosing their children on the internet we have a situation that needs to be addressed very quickly eg. it would be illegal in the UK to treat your pet dog or cat in this way.

4) The findings highlight how healthcare information seeking behaviour changes when women are affected by a problem they find embarrassing, encounter delays in accessing care or have anxieties over a possible diagnosis.

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