A cancer patient support group on Thursday said people don't get enough time with doctors to ask questions about their illnesses and they're turning to unreliable sources of information instead.
The Hong Kong Anti-Cancer Society said it interviewed 236 cancer patients and caregivers between September and November and found that they only got to spend an average of 13 minutes with a public hospital doctor, or 24 minutes with a private hospital doctor.
Half of the respondents said they failed to get all information they wanted from their doctor.
Many people tried to obtain information elsewhere, the support group said, with the internet the most likely place they turned to.
Although most respondents said they would only make use of online information after verification, 80 percent said they were not able to confirm what they had learnt.
Some said they believed that information with more "likes" or "shares" is more trustworthy.
Dr Lam Ka-on, chairman of the society's cancer education subcommittee, said short consultations are a global problem and it's up to patients to build up trust with their doctors to get the most out of their time together.
“They have to offload unnecessary information. They have to trust their doctors. Many times in short consultation, lack of interaction and relationship between patients and the doctors make patients more prone to trying to find alternative or even unreliable sources to compensate for that part. I guess the first is to build up a relationship with the doctor and the communication will be more efficient,” he said.
Lam said it is also important for patients and caregivers to build up “health literacy” – the ability to understand and critically assess information from non-medical professional sources before making health-related decisions.
“One thing an individual can improve is how he or she reads more about the information and try to compare different sources then apply to his or her own situation,” he said.