MADISON (WKOW) -- Searching for answers on the internet has become second nature for a lot of us and that includes answers to medical questions. According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, 35 percent of Americans have gone online to figure out what medical condition they, or someone they know, might have.
"For me, it's easier. My primary doctor's not down here so you just hop on the web," UW-Madison student Hannah Serwee said.
Dr. Jeremy Smith of UW Health said he's noticed a change over the past five to 10 years with more and more patients saying they've used the internet before seeing him. "It's effective if it leads to a fruitful discussion with the doctor and can serve as a jumping point. It's ineffective if it takes patients down a road of misinformation that can lead to unnecessary worry or a belief in a certain kind of treatment that's not scientifically valid," Smith said.
It's a trend that Smith believes is here to stay. "We all have to recognize that is the current and the future way that things are going to happen," he said.
Safer sites usually end in .gov, .state, or .org. Dr. Smith warned about medical websites based on forums. He said everyone should consult with a medical professional before drawing to any conclusion on diagnosis or treatment.