The internet is changing the way adults are accessing information about their health and wellbeing, according to the latest report from the Health Research Institute at professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Titled Social media likes healthcare: From marketing to social business, the survey revealed that one-third of consumers now use social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and online forums for health-related matters.
US Health Industries leader at PwC Kelly Barnes believes that social media now provides health organisations with the opportunity to engage with consumers on their terms.
"Social media has created a new customer service access point where consumers expect an immediate response," she said (April 17).
Online research noted by the survey included seeking medical information and tracking and sharing symptoms, as well as opinions on doctors, drugs, treatments, medical devices and private health cover.
However, one Australian health professional has warned against taking online research too far.
According to NSW medical director of the Australian Medical Association Robyn Napier, online tools such as Google could have distressing consequences without follow-ups from medical professionals.
"It's a serious problem – when you take a symptom out of context of the whole body you can't possibly diagnose," Dr Napier told News Limited today (April 20).