Rather than book a GP appointment straight away, people are more likely to turn on their computer first according to the Simplyhealth report: Are we an instant health generation? In an age where technology has made access to health advice and information instant, people have far more choice than ever before and appear more willing to take responsibility for researching their issues independently.

The results, released today, show that nearly 50% of people admit that the way they access and seek advice and information about a health issue has changed over the last ten years. This could be due to the widespread use of the Internet and mobile applications that have given way to this.

Raman Sankaran, spokesperson for healthcare provider Simplyhealth, comments: “Online healthcare resources fit in to our modern, busy, lifestyles, which is why 58% say they would rather turn to the Internet than go and see a healthcare professional. In a world where time is a precious commodity, our survey demonstrates a growing trend to use the Internet to not only seek health information and advice but to engage in online conversations about health. Over half of those surveyed state that they would be willing to give information about their symptoms online and 50% mentioned that they would give basic information such as their age and gender.

“It is interesting to see that social media and instant messaging features strongly in our results, with 56% of those willing to disclose information online saying they would be happy to take part in a web chat with a healthcare professional via instant messenger. All of this suggests that there is a shift in the way people want to access health advice and interact with healthcare professionals now, and this is only going to continue in the future.”

Nearly a third of people (31%) in the UK use the Internet to find out if their symptoms warrant a visit to their GP, with 59% using Google to find out what’s wrong. The results show that younger people are often more comfortable with communicating over the Internet, and are more likely to disclose personal information. 79% of 18 to 24s say they would give information compared to 63% of over 65s.

Dr Pixie McKenna, better known as resident Doctor on Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies, is working with Simplyhealth on the survey and comments: “Although instant access to online advice and information is incredibly useful, don’t forget that not all information online is legitimate and from reputable medical resources. My advice would be to refer to established websites such as NHS Choices (this is the best for diagnoses), NHS Direct and http://www.patient.co.uk, which are both trusted and utilised by healthcare professionals themselves. If in doubt however, always consult a doctor.”

Recent media coverage[1] has suggested that the NHS is looking to utilise online resources by using services such as Skype to perform consultations. It has also been reported that certain practices[2] are setting up email consultation services. This could mean that online health resources are introduced to the NHS sooner rather than later.

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