This site is intended for health professionals only

‘Dr Google enters 80% of my consultations’, warns RCGP chair

GPs must ‘be bold’ in the face of ‘Dr Google’ – patients looking up their symptoms before their GP consultation –  the chair of the RCGP has said.

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said patients attend consultations having already searched online for a diagnosis in 80% of her consultations.

She said GPs need to address the reality of having ‘Dr Google in the room with us’ when speaking to patients.

Professor Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Dr Google enters 80% of consultations that I have now.

‘I feel we need to raise that particularly with patients… and we have to work with it and we have to be bold and that’s a challenge for all of us I think.’

A YouGov poll of 2,000 British adults last year found that almost half (47%) of patients attempt self-diagnosis by googling their symptoms before seeing a GP

The RCGP chair was speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference on empowering patients to manage their own conditions through social prescribing and technology.

Professor Stokes-Lampard cautioned that the NHS ‘can waste a lot of money on the wrong technology’, but added that ‘when technology really works we have to embrace it because our patients expect it of us and it will make us more efficient and better clinicians’.

Primary care minister Steve Brine MP added: ‘If the NHS is going to be the safest highest quality healthcare system in the world, while we empower patients, we must do technology better, we just have to.’

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced seven digital milestones at NHS Expo conference last month that will see every patient able to book a GP appointment, check their patient record, and receive support for managing long conditions via an app by the end of next year.

Mr Brine said: ‘The title of your event this evening is “Who cares?” Well, having been asked that question, I would say, we do.

‘And I think we have every reason to do so because empowered patients are happier patients, they’re healthier patients and… the same goes for GPs.’