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Google Search Reigns Supreme Even for Doctors

Posted by | 6:07pm on Monday, November 7, 2011

double the number of MDs used Google (87%) for professional research online as the next most-used search options 

sign saying evolutionTwo studies were recently released regarding the online search habits of physicians. The first, Kantar Media’s Sources & Interactions, found that double the number of MDs used Google (87%) for professional research online as the next most-used search options (WebMD and PubMed, each at 43%). Google was one of six consumer search engines pulling significant usage; each was used by an average of 23% of physicians. That’s the same percentage that used each of the six medical sites on average, the study revealed. See the details on the chart at the bottom of the post.

Age matters
Kantar discovered wide variations in reported usage based on specialty, age, and other demographic factors. Google and Yahoo! were consistent performers across most groups, generally varying only within a two or three point range of average, while other sites showed wide variance. For example, PubMed was used by only 29% of family medicine doctors but 77% of infectious disease specialists. Older users preferred PubMed and Google Scholar, while younger users more frequently used general search engines Yahoo! and Bing, as well as WebMD and MDLinx. Interestingly, the study found that almost three times as many physicians who don’t see sales reps use UpToDate, compared with those who meet with reps.

The research was conducted during the first half of 2011, when 2,983 US-based physicians were surveyed by mail and online. The chart below shows the complete data regarding the search options.

Source: Kantar Media, Sources & Interactions, 2011

How physicians get diagnosis and treatment info
The second study, the Wolters Kluwer Health Point-of-Care Survey, asked the questions differently but found somewhat comparable results.

Along with search engines, Wolters Kluwer included professional journals and colleagues as a potential source of information. After these two sources, general search engines (such as Google and Yahoo!) were the third most popular information source, used frequently or occasionally by 78% of respondents. The chart below shows the answers to the question, “How often do you use the following sources to gain information used to diagnose, treat and care for patients?”

Source: Wolters Kluwer Health, Point-of-Care Survey, 2011

Online info helps to change opinions
Wolters Kluwer found that most physicians believe easier access to medical knowledge by patients has had a positive impact on the doctor/patient relationship. However, one in five believe it has been detrimental, leading to misinformation and incorrect self-diagnosis. Another fascinating stat: “63% of physicians report changing an initial diagnosis based on new information accessed via online resources/support tools.”

The data was culled from phone interviews with more than 300 physicians in the US from a national sample of qualified American Medical Association members.

Both these studies are in line with Google’s 2009 online study of 400 physicians. When researchers asked “Which of the following online resources do you use to research or gather health, medical or prescription drug information?” 81% answered search engines. Of those, 92% use Google and 13% use Google Scholar.

It’s important to note that how physicians use search engines differs from patients, but that’s a post for another day. What do you think of these studies?

(Image courtesy of Kevin Dooley on Flickr).

About Eileen O'Brien

Eileen has more than 16 years of digital healthcare marketing experience. She is an opinion leader on social media and biopharma, and has been invited to speak at industry conferences and quoted in publications.

View other posts from Eileen

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    08 November 2011 at 2:11pm
    Google Search Reigns Supreme Even ...
  • SavingCase
  • 08 November 2011 at 7:11pm
    Google Search Reigns Supreme Even ...
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  • 08 November 2011 at 7:11pm
    Should not B surprised, just ...
  • Len Starnes
  • 11 November 2011 at 12:11am
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  • 11 November 2011 at 2:11am
    RT @westr: RT @EileenOBrien: Google ...
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  • 29 May 2012 at 3:05pm
    [...] Research-Google Physician Channel Adoption Study 2012 reinforces what we already know–that physicians use general search engines for ...
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