Using an app a day could keep the doctor away

Date: 13 March 2013

— A third of people Google health advice, new poll shows
— Nesta and Young Foundation call for rapid development in sharing health information

Almost a third of people use Google for health advice, but only one in eight think it’s the most reliable source; with just half again – one in 16 – saying they would recommend using a search engine as a way to check symptoms1. The poll findings are released as Nesta and the Young Foundation publish Doctor Know, a report which calls for more rapid development of technology and policies to share health information – between patients, clinicians, researchers and health providers.

Doctor Know looks at how digital technology is changing how people create, access and share information and considers how these trends have huge implications in terms of how we manage health. Further, it explains how new sources and applications of data could improve our knowledge about health.

Laura Bunt, report co-author and Nesta policy advisor explains, “Every time we look something up on Wikipedia, rate an experience on Tripadvisor or search online, we are taking advantage of the increasingly sophisticated way in which technology and digital tools are allowing us to capture and refine our collective intelligence. We need to apply this to how we make decisions about our health. This is not a short term objective but an ambition for 20-30 years’ time.”

Doctor Know argues that the health system is not making the most of the information revolution that has transformed other fields. In the future, how we access safe, reliable and relevant information to inform our health choices will come to define effective healthcare. This includes information held by patients, doctors, medical researchers, nurses, carers, community providers, families and so on brought together in a common body of knowledge accessible in real time. The poll published alongside the report shows a disparity between how people access health information and how much they trust the sources that they use:

• Four in five people would either like a little or lot more access to resources and information about their health, such as care plans, from their health consultations.

• 44% of people say that Google is the fastest source of information – holding equal ranking to ease of use. Yet just 12% think it is the most reliable source of information.

• The vast majority of people (90%) would be happy to share their own healthcare data, in most instances, to advance medical research and innovation.2

Doctor Know calls for more rapid development in a number of key areas to better share health information:

• New policies and regulations around access to data and better structuring of clinical guidelines;

• New technologies, products and services such as apps, sensors and decision-making tools;

• New business models and institutions including open research networks and platforms;

• New behaviours and culture change towards greater openness and transparency.

John Loder, co-author and programme manager, Young Foundation, concludes, “When people feel better informed they are able to take more control. The ability to not only access but also generate useful knowledge about health is an important prerequisite to balancing patient-clinician relationships.”

This report is available to download here.


Notes to Editors:

For media enquires: Sarah Reardon | Nesta | t: +44 (0)20 7438 2606 | m: +44 (0)7880 613 500

• 1 When asked would people would suggest to someone for symptoms like high temperature (fever), sweats, aches and pains in muscles and joints, a dry cough, sore throat, sneezing, and headache

• 2 When asked if your healthcare data could advance medical research and innovation would you be happy to share your healthcare data: yes but only if I could be 100% sure only NHS staff or NHS providers could see it (25%); Yes but only if I could be 100% sure only NHS staff or NHS providers and researchers could see it (30%); Yes, I’d be happy if NHS staff or NHS providers and academics were 100% sure to keep it confidential and as long as the information was not about sexual or mental health. (18%); I’d make any of my medical records available to anyone to advance medical research and innovation (17%).

• About the poll: on the 8th to 11th March, 2013, Vision Critical conducted an online survey among 2,010 randomly selected British adults who are Springboard UK panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.2%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and regional data to ensure samples representative of the entire adult population of United Kingdom.

About the Young Foundation

The Young Foundation is determined to make positive social change happen. We pioneered the field of social innovation with The Open University, UpRising and Studio Schools. We work closely with individuals, communities and partners building relationships to ensure that our thinking does something, our actions matter and the changes we make together will continue to grow.

About Nesta

Nesta is the UK’s innovation foundation. We help people and organisations bring great ideas to life. We do this by providing investments and grants and mobilising research, networks and skills. We are an independent charity and our work is enabled by an endowment from the National Lottery.

Nesta Operating Company is a registered charity in England and Wales with a company number 7706036 and charity number 1144091. Registered as a charity in Scotland number SC042833. Registered office: 1 Plough Place, London, EC4A 1DE