An increasing number of patients are arriving at their GP surgeries armed with health information downloaded from the internet.
A study by market research firm Manhattan Research found that doctors actually spent more time with patients who took the trouble to bring in information for discussion.
"The internet has empowered consumers to take an increasingly active role in their healthcare management and their relationship with the physician," said Meredith Abreu Ressi, head of research at Manhattan Research.
"The conversation used to be a one-way, didactic interaction. But as consumers are increasingly bearing the responsibility for their healthcare and decisions, this balance of power is shifting."
Mrs Ressi said the internet was a key tool used by patients to educate themselves on treatment options, and that some of them were discussing their findings with their doctors.
A spokesperson for Manhattan Research said that while online messaging or emails could never replace face-to-face consultations, it could be an ideal means of communication for many non-urgent medical matters.
"For the many consumers who already 'self-diagnose' using online tools, receiving professional consultation and referrals over the internet seem like the next logical step in upgrading their online health management," the spokesperson added.