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Merck Manuals Survey: Family Physicians Say Availability of Online Medical Information Has Increased Patient/Physician Interactions

KENILWORTH, N.J., Nov. 14, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- The proliferation of online medical information has affected the frequency and nature of patient/physician interactions, according to the findings of a survey released today by the Merck Manuals, one of the world's most widely-used medical resources since 1899. The survey of 240 family physicians, conducted at a recent industry conference, revealed that 82 percent of respondents say patients are contacting their office or nurse's line with medical questions more frequently due to the increased availability of medical information online in recent years.

The Merck Manuals surveyed 240 family physicians to find out how the availability of online medical information has affected the frequency and nature of interactions between physicians and their patients.

Almost 90 percent of family physicians believe this trend has affected the frequency of patient visits. However, respondents differed in their perceptions:

"In some ways, it's made appointments more complicated," said Timothy, a family physician from Anchorage, Alaska, who participated in the survey. "Patients search their symptoms online and see the worst-case scenarios, rather than the most common scenarios, so they come into appointments with more anxiety."

This sentiment was shared among many family physicians surveyed. Ninety-seven percent said patients come into the office with misinformation. Nearly eighty percent of respondents said the availability of medical information online has made patients more likely to question their diagnoses or recommendations.

"We run into problems when patients go to online sources that aren't evidence-based medicine," said Khyati, a physician from Dixon, Illinois. "But patients aren't going to stop looking up their symptoms on the Internet, so it's up to physicians to direct them to trusted sources."

When it comes to physicians turning to digital tools in their own practices, 83 percent of respondents say they regularly confirm treatments or diagnoses using an online medical resource. Eighty-nine percent say that regular access to medical information online makes them more confident during patient interactions.

"Our survey uncovered an interesting dynamic at play. While the ease and availability of online medical information instills confidence in family physicians, they believe "Dr. Google" has the potential to introduce anxiety among patients," says Dr. Robert S. Porter, M.D., Merck Manuals Editor-in-Chief. "The disconnect here is credibility. When reviewing medical information online, physicians can exercise a high level of discretion based on their training. It's more challenging for patients to identify medically correct sources."

"That's why the Merck Manuals introduced a credibility test called the STANDS method in 2015, which allows patients to quickly assess whether a medical website is reliable or not," said Porter. "Of course, patients should always consult their physician when making decisions about their health."

Bridging the credibility gap is a key part of Global Medical Knowledge 2020 ? a worldwide initiative to make current and accurate medical information accessible to nearly three billion consumers and health care professionals by 2020. Learn more at MerckManuals.com.

About The Merck Manuals

First published in 1899 as a small reference book for physicians and pharmacists, The Merck Manual grew in size and scope to become one of the world's most widely used comprehensive medical resources for professionals and consumers. As The Manual evolved, it continually expanded the reach and depth of its offerings to reflect the mission of providing the best medical information to a wide cross-section of users, including medical professionals and students, veterinarians and veterinary students, and consumers. In 2015, The Merck Manual kicked off Global Medical Knowledge 2020, a program to make the best current medical information accessible by up to three billion professionals and patients around the world by 2020. For access to thousands of medical topics with images, videos and a constantly expanding set of resources, visit MerckManuals.com and connect with us on social media:

For Consumers in the U.S. and its territories: Twitter and Facebook
For Professionals in the U.S. and its territories: Twitter and Facebook


The survey of 240 family physicians was conducted in October 2018 at a national conference. For details on survey methodology, please contact Jamie Haynes at jamie@gobraithwaite.com.

About Merck

For more than a century, Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical company known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world's most challenging diseases. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. Today, Merck continues to be at the forefront of research to advance the prevention and treatment of diseases that threaten people and communities around the world - including cancer, cardio-metabolic diseases, emerging animal diseases, Alzheimer's disease and infectious diseases including HIV and Ebola. For more information, visit www.merck.com and connect with us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.

SOURCE MerckManuals.com

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