Why You Should Never Fully Trust Dr. Google

06/04/2015

Written by Britney Young | Published on June 1, 2015
Medically Reviewed by Sharon Blackerby, MSN, RN-BC on June 1, 2015

The Pros and Cons of Online Self-Diagnosis


In today’s computer savvy world, information is constantly being accessed and digested at our fingertips. With a simple search of a few keywords you can find articles, blog posts, forums, research studies, journals and many other publications on any and everything. Of these various publications, health advice makes up a significant part of this information and can be very useful in helping you make an informed decision about your health. Medical advice websites such as WebMD, FreeMD, and Healthline provide viewers an easy, inexpensive way of diagnosing their symptoms, however this easy access to information can cause mis-diagnosis and/or “cyberchondria”. Are these websites really helpful and what should you be aware of when using them? Can you really trust Dr. Google? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.

PROS

  1. Convenient – By inputting symptoms into one of these advice sites it gives patients immediate answers that can save time rather than trying to schedule an appointment with a doctor to discuss minor health concerns.
  2. Informative – These sites have a wealth of information on various medical conditions and treatment options. This can help patients discuss their condition with their doctor and make an informed decision.
  3. Private – Some conditions patients find embarrassing to talk about with their doctor. These advice sites provide a way for patients to privately research their symptoms and find information on personal health issues.
  4. Inexpensive – Most advice sites can be accessed for free on the internet and can help patients save money when trying to get information about symptoms that they’re experiencing without having to pay for a doctor visit.
  5. Proactive – Patients that utilize online medical information are able to research and educate themselves about their health concerns and find additional information on treatment options and support groups regarding their medical condition to proactively take care of their health.

CONS

  1. Misinformation – Many of these sites are not medically accredited resources for information. While they can provide valuable information regarding your condition, patients should be aware that many of these sites post disclaimers in fine print such as, “Intended for informational purposes and should not be considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment recommendations”.
  2. “Cyberchondria” – These sites function like machines, put a few symptoms in and it puts out conditions to match. The danger with this is that sometimes individuals may find results that lead them to believe they have much more serious conditions or wrong conditions altogether.
  3. Hidden Agenda - Some of these sites are actually being funded by pharmaceutical companies and prey on the fears of readers in order to push prescription drugs. Aside from the fear-tactic content, the page is cluttered with banner ads from various big brands promoting household goods, medications and more.
  4. Avoid Needed Medical Attention - While being informed about your health condition is good, thinking you have all the answers is not. Relying on the internet to diagnose yourself, rather than seeking medical attention regarding your condition can be dangerous and life-threatening.

In conclusion, Dr. Google serves a good purpose for getting the information you need about your symptoms and condition, but should be used with caution. Some things to remember when getting information from Dr. Google are the credibility of the source, date of publication, country of publication, and placement of publication. Self-diagnosis can help guide you with information and questions to ask your doctor, but should never be used in place of your doctor. If you have questions regarding symptoms you’re experiencing, visit one of our clinics and speak with a doctor today. With 300 locations nationwide, Concentra and Dr. Google together can help you make an informed decision about your health.

References

"The Pros and Cons of Self Diagnosis - Vigorate Health." Vigorate Health. 2 June 2014. Web. 27 May 2015. http://vigoratehealth.com/pros-cons-self-diagnosis

Heffernan, Virginia. "A Prescription for Fear." The New York Times. The New York Times Company, 5 Feb. 2011. Web. 27 May 2015. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/06/magazine/06FOB-Medium-t.html?_r=0

"Health Online: The New Relationship of the Internet and the Patient." Health Online The New Relationship of the Internet and the Patient RSS. UNC Office of Arts and Sciences Information Services. Web. 27 May 2015. http://medicineonline.web.unc.edu/self-diagnosing/