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Self-Diagnosing in the Internet Age

By / November 30, 2012 / / 0 Comments

"Are you a Doctor?" ... "No, but I play one on the Internet."

With all the information that is at our fingertips, it is easy to rely on the internet for making important decisions. According to Pew Research, 80% of people using the internet have used it for looking up health information online.

That’s a dramatic number considering that you don’t always know who is posting the information and if it really applies to you. So how do you know if the information you’re getting is good or bad?

You don’t. However, there are a few ways to improve the quality of your information.

1. Try to search for web addresses that end in .org or .edu. These organizations are typically non-profit and are more apt to put out unbiased information.

2. Avoid Forum’s and Answer Threads. Many times, symptoms sound familiar to your own condition, yet may be slightly different. Forum’s typically are not moderated by health professionals, therefore, the “advice” is sometimes suspect. Many active users on forum’s are very aggressive about their beliefs and take a strong stand on something based on religion, demographics and political standing. Be very careful in forums when these factors play a role in how they treat illnesses.

3. Don’t get too emotional. When self-diagnosing online, you are typically doing it for yourself or a close family member. Because of this, it’s hard to keep some sort of emotional distance. That is one reason a doctor’s opinion is so important, he or she can look at your situation objectively, based on facts. Self-diagnosing may lead to an incorrect diagnosis based on whether you react to fear or use a diagnosis to calm your fears. You attempt to find the diagnosis that satisfies your concerns.

4. Do your research, but don’t assume anything. When you visit us at Emergency One, we’ll invite you to share with us what you’ve discovered online. However, keep in mind that our providers look at all symptoms, not just the ones you might have Googled.

5. Work with your healthcare provider. Remember, search engines are not second opinions. If you feel strongly about the advice you are getting and it doesn’t agree with what your current provider is saying, ask questions. We always want to do what’s best for you. If we can’t come to an agreement, we welcome you to get a second opinion from a real person, rather than a search engine or blog.

The amount of information found online is staggering. With the right amount of discretion and cooperation, our providers can help you find the right path to your health.