More than half of Americans looked up health information on the Internet last year, U.S. government researchers reported on Tuesday. But only 5 percent used email to communicate with their doctors, the survey by the National Centre for Health Statistics found.

Researcher at the centre used a survey of 7,192 adults aged 18 to 64 questioned between January and June 2009. “From January through June 2009, 51 percent of adults aged 18-64 had used the Internet to look up health information during the past 12 months,” the centre, part of the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement. “Among adults aged 18-64, women were more likely than men to look up health information on the Internet (58 percent versus 43 percent) and were also more likely to use online chat groups to learn about health topics (4 percent versus 2.5 percent).” The survey found 6 percent of adults requested a refill of a prescription on the Internet, and almost 3 percent had made an appointment with a healthcare provider in the previous 12 months using the Internet. Other researchers have found doctors are reluctant to use the Internet or email to communicate with patients because of concerns about privacy as well as confusion about how to charge for their time.

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