Health information seeking on the internet (Dr Google) and its effect on doctor-patient relationship: a cross-sectional study from Central Karnataka

Rachna Shekhar, Sandhya Rani Javalkar


Background: The Internet has proven to be a powerful vehicle for the dissemination of information and the use of Internet by the patients as a source of information on health and disease is increasing rapidly. It has reformed the doctor-patient relationship by empowering patients with information. The objective was to study the trends of patient’s health information seeking behaviour on the internet and its effects on the doctor-patient relationship.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted amongst the 73 doctors and 110 patients attending the tertiary health care centre, Davanagere. A pre-tested and pre-validated questionnaire was used to collect data. Percentages and Proportions were used to summarize the study variables.

Results: The most common search engine used was Google i.e. 92% and majority of them looked up symptoms/ disease condition 80%. 57% respondents verified doctor’s advice. 73% respondents stated that they used online health information for self-diagnosis but less than 10% of respondents took medications mentioned online. The doctors (60%) stated that the patient’s Internet use proves that the patient or his/her family are involved and take responsibility. However, 49.3% of doctors stated that they get uncomfortable when presented with online health information by the patients.

Conclusions: Doctors are starting to recognize the use of the internet by patients as a source of health information. Patients consider the internet as a supplementary resource for better understanding of symptoms and diagnosis. The need of the hour is better communication between doctor and patients; and availability of reliable web-based health resources to patients for better compliance.


Doctor-patient relationship, Health information, Internet

Full Text:



Bernhardt J, Lariscy R, Parrott R, Silk K, Felter E. Perceived Barriers to Internet-Based Health Communication on Human Genetics. J Health Communication. 2002;7(4):325-40.

Van Riel N, Auwerx K, Debbaut P, Van Hees S, Schoenmakers B. The effect of Dr Google on doctor–patient encounters in primary care: a quantitative, observational, cross-sectional study. BJGP Open. 2017;1(2): BJGP-2017-0833.

Forkner-Dunn J. Internet-based Patient Self-care: The Next Generation of Health Care Delivery. J Medd Inter Re. 2003;5(2): e8.

Jacob J. Consumer access to health care information: its effect on the physician–patient relationship. Alaska Med. 2002;44:75–82.

Giveon S, Yaphe J, Hekselman I, Mahamid S, Hermoni D. The e-patient: a survey of Israeli primary care physicians’ responses to patients’ use of online information during the consultation. Isr Med Assoc J. 2009;11(9):537-41.

Kim J, Kim S. Physician’s perception of the effects of Internet health information on the doctor–patient relationship. Informatics Health Social Care. 2009;34(3):136–48.

Leiberich P, Nedoschill J, Nickel M, Loew T. Self-help and consultation via Internet. Self-responsible users redefine the physician-patient relationship. Med Klin (Munich). 2004;99(5): 263-8.

Ferguson T, Frydman G. The first generation of e-patients. BMJ. 2004;328(7449):1148–9.

Singh S, Banerjee A. Internet and doctor–patient relationship: Cross-sectional study of patients’ perceptions and practices. Indian J Public Health. 2019;63:215-9.

Oliveira JF. The effect of the Internet on the patient-doctor relationship in a hospital in the city of São Paulo. JISTEM. 2014;11(2):327-44.

Diaz JA, Griffith RA, Ng JJ, Reinert SE, Friedmann PD, Moulton AW. Patients' use of the Internet for medical information. J Gen Inter Med. 2002;17(3):180-5

Potts HW, Wyatt JC. Survey of doctors' experience of patients using the Internet. J Med Internet Res. 2002;4:5.

Eysenbach G, Kohler C. How do consumers search for and appraise health information on the World Wide Web? Qualitative study using focus groups, usability tests and in-depth interviews. BMJ. 2002;324:573-7.

McMullan M. Patients using the Internet to obtain health information: how this affects the patient–health professional relationship. Patient Edu Counsel. 2006;63(1-2):24-8.