The rise of sites like WebMD has created a new class of informed, savvy patients—“cyberchondriacs”—which, in many cases, has fostered a new level of cooperation between patients and clinicians. It is a class of Internet user that is growing by leaps and bounds.

A new Harris Poll has shed light on just how many cyberchondriacs are out there. According to the company, in 1998, when it first coined the term “cyberchondriac,” about 50 million Americans had used the Internet to do health research, by 2005 that number was 117 million. That number pales to the recent poll, which found 175 million cyberchondriacs are frequenting the Internet looking for health-related information. About 22% of those surveyed say they look on the Internet “often” for health information.

While the percentage of adults who go online has held steady at about 79%, the proportion of those who do so for health information is at its highest level ever (88%). On average, a cyberchondriac looks online for health information about six times a month.

The majority of these web-savvy patients find the information they’ve downloaded to be reliable, with only 8% believing it is unreliable. The majority (53%) of cyberchondriacs have either discussed the information they have found online with their healthcare provider and a slightly smaller number (51%) have searched for information after discussing it with their physicians.

Click here for more about the  poll results. 

(Source: Press Release and Link)