A study by central London's Imperial College researchers said the website has ‘significant’ potential for cost savings as it changes patients’ health seeking behaviour.
It found that 14.2m visits made annually to NHS Choices are by people thinking about consulting a GP, equating to 59% of total visits to the website.
But it found that around 30% of users said visiting NHS Choices reduced their frequency of GP consultations.
From this, the researchers estimated that the website reduces the overall number of GP visits by 4.2m each year, providing an annual saving of £94.7m.
But the report said this is a ‘conservative’ estimate as it does not include the additional cost savings as a result of reduced consultation times due to patients having a better understanding of their condition.
The report said: ‘In this study, people reported that the use of NHS Choices modified their health knowledge, attitudes and health seeking behaviour.
‘This has the potential to result in significant cost and efficiency savings for primary care services in England and Wales.’
The report concluded that the website proves to be a ‘popular and effective decision support tool’.
‘It permits more efficient self-management and self-triage by the public, reducing the need to involve health professionals and thus reducing avoidable consultations for diagnostic decision support,’ the researchers said.