freelance journalist, print journalist, online journalist, copywriter, content editor, freelance editor, health and lifestyle, blogger More people click for health advice than ever | Christine Morgan - Journalist
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I don’t know about you, but I’m not at all surprised by the two reports published today that suggest more people than ever are going online to find out about health problems and to self-diagnose. A release from the Department of Health wraps it up by suggesting it saves the NHS millions of pounds a year. And yes, it probably does. So well done all you out there who take the initiative and go online when you need information about your health.

It’s good news from the NHS Choices website, which, according to its 2010 annual report, logged more than 100 million visits during the last year – that’s 10 percent up on the year before, but whatever way you look at it, it’s a pretty good number (and on a daily basis that’s 200,000 visits – which is pretty amazing). And another report form Imperial College suggests 70 percent of people use the internet to search for information on health issues. And get this, a third of them don’t go to their GPs as a result, because they got the answers they were looking for on the net.

“Every day we use the internet and technology to organise our lives, and increasingly when it comes to our health,” says health minister Simon Burns. “More and more people are taking the information they have found online with them when they consult their GP. It is important they can find accurate, trusted information from sources such as NHS Choices. It is vital that every penny spent on the NHS counts, and the Imperial College research shows that tools like NHS Choices can help deliver savings.”

So well done NHS Choices (which, by the way, is one of the websites I have written for – not that I’m suggesting that has anything to do with its success, of course!). I have to say it’s one of the first places I visit when I’m doing research on a type of illness, it really is the bees knees.

And I’m absolutely all for people taking control of their own health and arming themselves with as much knowledge as they can, especially when illness strikes. But forget about how much money websites like NHS Choices saves the health service. Perhaps more people are turning to the internet for health advice because it’s easier – and, let’s face it, often more helpful – than going to their doctor’s surgery.

I know I come down hard on GPs most of the time, but I fully accept that most of them are hard-working and consciensious – and if I had a serious health worry I’d be off to my GP like a shot. But I’m afraid to admit that for just about anything else, NHS Choices and other similar websites are my first port of call. What about you?