While online health information (OHI) has become ubiquitous, little is known about its use by middle-aged and older adults. This contribution
examines the role of OHI and its influence on the patient–physician relationship. This qualitative study reports the thematic analysis of 40 semi structured, in-depth interviews with Flemish middle-aged and older adults between the ages of 50 and 80 years. Middle-aged and older adults obtain OHI pre- and post-consultation, albeit with different motivations and in search of different types of information. Patients strategically and carefully introduce OHI in the clinical encounter. “Doctor Google” expands the traditional patient–physician dyad into an information triangle. The findings have implications for policy guidance and clinical practice. Public campaigns against “Googling” for health information might have to be amended to be successful. Importantly, physicians are increasingly expected to refer to and appraise OHI and put it into the individual patient context.
health information seeking, online health information, Doctor Google, middle-aged adults, older adults, patient–physician relationship