Paging Dr. Google

Are Americans turning to the internet a little too much when it comes to their health?  Is it a positive step toward empowering patients, or is it a dangerous precedent when we self-diagnose using un-vetted information?

A pretty startling statistic came to light when the Pew Research Center announced that more than one in three American adults (35%) have said they used the internet to diagnose a medical condition for themselves or someone else.

Think about that for a moment. Over a third of us have turned to websites, many of which are never vetted, to assess our own health and determine a next course of action. According to the study, about a third of those folks who turned to the internet did not follow-up with a doctor, while 18% later went to a doctor and found out that their internet diagnosis was incorrect.

We know that an informed patient is more often an empowered patient, better capable of navigating the health care maze and asking the right questions during appointments. However, the danger happens when we assume that decades of medical training and diagnostic practice can be replaced by a keyword search. It’s important to strike a good balance between knowledge and quick conclusions.

We also need to be aware that printing sheets of internet research and asking doctors to take the time to explain why this is NOT what you have, can be detrimental in that it takes away critical time when he or she can help determine what you may actually have. Appointments these days are short enough, and doctors need all the time they can get to come to a conclusion.

That being said, if your own research points to something that your doctor may have missed, do not hesitate to ask. Asking questions is a key part of the diagnostic process.

Just remember: As great as Siri is, I don’t think she graduated from an accredited medical school.



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