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07.08.2020 | original article | Ausgabe 13-14/2020 Open Access

Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift 13-14/2020

General practitioners’ challenges and strategies in dealing with Internet-related health anxieties—results of a qualitative study among primary care physicians in Germany

Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift > Ausgabe 13-14/2020
Dr. phil. Julian Wangler, Univ.-Prof. Dr. med. Michael Jansky
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10354-020-00777-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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Data from this research are not publicly available because participants did not give permission for recordings or transcripts to be released to other researchers.

Authors’ contributions

The authors alone are responsible for the content and the writing of the paper.
JW prepared, coordinated and implemented the project. Both JW and MJ contributed to the project design, analysis of transcripts and drafting of the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Time and again, it is discussed that in medical practices, the number of patients who develop health anxieties due to extensive health information searches on the Internet is increasing. The objective of this study is to explore and describe general practitioners’ experiences and attitudes towards cyberchondria patients as well as strategies to stabilize affected patients. Following a qualitative approach, oral personal semi-standardized interviews with general practitioners (N = 38) in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, were conducted in 2019. In the course of a content analysis, one can see that most interviewees see the emergence of Internet-related health anxieties as an increasing problem in everyday care. Affected patients not only show marked levels of doubt and nervousness as well as hypersensitivity to their own state of health, but also low confidence in the physician. In addition to compliance-related difficulties, the high need for advice and the demand for further diagnostics are regarded as major problems. Various approaches were identified by which general practitioners respond to unsettled patients (more consultation time, recommendation of reputable websites, information double-checking, expanded history questionnaire, additional psychosocial training).

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