A significant number of office workers are turning to Dr Google when they have symptoms, before booking an appointment with their GPs, new research shows.
According to the poll by Aetna International, which surveyed 4,000 employees in the UK, US, UAE and Singapore, nearly half (43%) of office workers look up any symptoms they are experiencing online first before reaching out to their usual medical professional.
This is despite the same percentage (43%) admitting that what they discover online actually makes them feel even more nervous about booking an appointment with their GP. In comparison, just 20% of those polled said looking up their symptoms online made them feel more confident.
Sadly, the research also revealed that 23% of people do not have enough time to have regular health check ups, despite the fact that many conditions respond much better when they are diagnosed earlier. This is a reality that perhaps highlights one of the reasons people rely so much on online resources when they are sick.
Could technology provide an answer?
The research also found that many individuals would embrace technology for booking GP appointments, with 35% saying the ability to leverage an app or online service to book consultations would make them more likely to go to the doctor.
Furthermore, 33% said they would be more likely to visit a health professional if they could view their personal health data via an app or online service.
Dr Sneh Khemka, senior vice president, population health solutions and vHealth at Aetna International, said: “There’s no getting away from Dr Google. We need to recognise that people are going to use the internet/Google more and more over time. So the onus is really on big tech giants such as Google – to make sure they’re curating results that come from validated, reliable sources of information.”
Many workers worried about long-term health
Interestingly, the research found that 40% of workers admitted they are worried about their long-term health. However, the same proportion haven’t had a health check in the last 12 months and a significant number have no clue about simple measures of health, such as cholesterol levels.
Most workers polled acknowledged that they could do more to improve their health, with 55% saying their diet needs improvement and 72% saying they need to exercise more.
Pressure in the workplace is taking its toll
Finally, the survey shows that increasing pressure in the workplace is having a significant impact on how employees prioritise their health. For example, almost half (47%) said they often feel stressed because of work but do not make an appointment with a healthcare professional as a result. Moreover, a third said they simply don’t have time to be ill at work, while 21% said they don’t have enough time off from work to focus on their health.
With so many of us referring to the Internet when we have a medical worry due to GP waiting lists and not wanting to take time away from work, it is no surprise that presenteeism is prevalent in many workplaces. With a number of providers now offering virtual GP services included in their medical insurance propositions, this can directly benefit employers and employees alike.
Rebecca joined Premier Choice Healthcare in February 2019 as a dedicated consumer account manager and looks after the needs of our individual clients. Prior to this, she worked for AXA PPP Healthcare for eleven years where she was a SME Account Manager working with a portfolio of key intermediaries across the UK.