Almost half of Irish people consult the Internet for medical diagnosis, rather than spend the money on visiting a doctor, according to a recent study.

The research showed that over 60 percent of Irish women aged between 35 to 44 years use Google for medical advice, while 50 percent of males in the same age group also use the Internet instead of visiting their general practitioner (GP).

Quinn-healthcare in Ireland conducted the study on 1,000 people which found that 45 percent of the Irish population would use a phone service or instant messenger chat with their GP if their doctor offered it.

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Some 53 percent of female respondents said they surf the Internet for a second opinion. Over 35 percent believe information found online is trustworthy, with young men being the biggest believers (48 percent).

Speaking about the findings Dr David Ward of Quinn-healthcare’s GP Helpline said: “In these financially challenging times, people need to make their money stretch further, even when it comes to their health.

Offerings like the GP Helpline make it possible to do this and also enable customers to save time by picking up a telephone for peace of mind.”

“As the research suggests, the Internet is also being used by people to save money and while it is a significant source of information it should be treated with caution and used in conjunction with advice from a trained medical professional.

“Other forms of communication technology are also having an impact on the healthcare sector, including text message (SMS) alerts from chemists when prescriptions are ready and virtual doctor visits via Skype. Both are emerging trends in the US and the UK. I could certainly see this trend catching on in particular in rural Ireland and more generally if we are in for another winter of extremely cold weather,” Dr Ward said.