A mixed methods systematic review of the effects of patient online self-diagnosing in the 'smart-phone society' on the healthcare professional-patient relationship and medical authority

Citations of this article
Mendeley users who have this article in their library.

This article is free to access.


Background: As technology continues to advance, the internet is becoming increasingly popular. Self-diagnosis and health information seeking online is growing more common and it will be important to understand the influence this may have on the patient-healthcare professional relationship. Methods: A mixed-method systematic review of quantitative, qualitative and mixed method studies concerning the public and healthcare professionals' perceptions of online self-diagnosis and health information seeking and how this can impact the patient-healthcare professional relationship. We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, ACM SCOPUS between 2007 and 2018. Relevant data were extracted, and a thematic analysis was conducted and conceptualised using the Normalisation Process Theory framework. Results: Of 6107 records identified, 25 articles met the review eligibility criteria which included 16 qualitative, 8 quantitative and 1 mixed method study. The findings indicated that patients found the internet as a complementary information source alongside healthcare professionals. Health care professionals were perceived to be the most reliable and valued information source. People feel responsible for their own health and find the internet to be a source that provides information rapidly with accessibility at their convenience. Most healthcare professionals agreed on the importance of collaboration with patients and the need to develop a partnership and shared decision-making process but struggled to find time in the consultation to do so efficiently. Some healthcare professionals felt that the internet was advantageous for patients looking after their own health, while others felt it was due to a lack of trust in their expertise. Patients tended to present information to the healthcare professional to support the therapeutic relationship rather than to challenge it and to become more involved in the decision-making process of their healthcare. Conclusion: The results of this review suggests that patients value healthcare professionals as a source of medical advice more than the internet. While health professionals' views were mixed our findings indicate that online health information seeking can potentially improve the patient-healthcare professional relationship as patients reported they usually conducted an online search to form a partnership with the healthcare professional as opposed to trying to prove them wrong.




Farnood, A., Johnston, B., & Mair, F. S. (2020, October 6). A mixed methods systematic review of the effects of patient online self-diagnosing in the “smart-phone society” on the healthcare professional-patient relationship and medical authority. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making. BioMed Central Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12911-020-01243-6

Register to see more suggestions

Mendeley helps you to discover research relevant for your work.

Already have an account?

Save time finding and organizing research with Mendeley

Sign up for free