- CATEGORIES: Businesses,Doctors and Hospitals,Healthy Living,Nurses,Overall Health,Ravi Raheja, MD
- No comments
Physicians Agree: Googling Symptoms is Hazardous
By Ravi Raheja, MD, Medical Director and COO
More patients are using the Internet to “google” their symptoms. Sometimes they diagnose themselves, and very often scare themselves with the information they find. Not only is this dangerous, but it causes unnecessary anxiety and frustration for the patients and for their providers.
Patients should always contact their physician for health concerns. If a sudden illness or injury occurs after hours, patients can seek guidance by calling their doctor’s telephone triage service. A trained registered nurse will assess the patient’s symptoms using standardized protocols and direct them to appropriate care.
Here is a helpful article to offer your patients that explains why “googling” symptoms is not ideal. Please click here if you would like to print this information to share with your patients.
The Dangers of “Googling” Your Healthcare
These days, when you need to know anything about anything, you Google it. Want to know what the Kardiashians are doing? You Google them. Need a Cambodian recipe for a dinner party tonight? You can Google that too. When you’re sick, it’s incredibly easy to enter your symptoms into Dr. Google and read all about it. If this is you, you’re in plenty of company. A 2012 survey from The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found that almost 35 percent of American Internet users self-diagnose using the Internet. Scarily, one in three of the people surveyed never confirmed their personal diagnoses with a medical professional.
It’s extremely tempting to search the Internet for medical advice. Consulting Dr. Google can save you both time and money. And it can be nice to get answers from the comfort of your sweatpants without ever leaving your bed. But Googling your symptoms and self-diagnosing illnesses can do more harm than good.
It is difficult to filter the information on the Internet. The information on the Internet is seemingly endless. If you Google “cramps,” you will find results pertaining to everything from aching muscles to PMS and stomach diseases. While pages on obscure foreign bacterial infections are interesting, they’re probably not something you should concern yourself with right now unless you’ve just returned from Botswana. Research only what you might actually have, then see your doctor and move on with your life.
It can be difficult to find credible resources on the Internet. Any person with an Internet access can create a website and write anything they please. If your eyelid starts twitching as if you just downed 12 espressos, the first thing you might do is head over to the computer and type in “eyelid twitch.” Up pops 27 million websites and you click the link to the first one that catches your attention. This website indicates that fortune has smiled upon you and the twitching will bring you a happy love life. Unfortunately, this is a random person’s fictional blog and not actual medical information.
Be certain the websites you visit for health information are trustworthy and evaluated by medical authorities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The National Institutes of Health and Mayo Clinic all have websites with legitimate health and medical information on which you can rely.
Researching symptoms on the Internet often leads to more anxiety but no solution. The last thing you need to do is worry for no real reason. Before you jump to the conclusion that your swollen ankles mean that you will imminently die of congestive heart failure, take a step back and really think about it. You probably ate a big, greasy cheeseburger last night, didn’t you? If you can’t explain your symptoms or they persist, see your doctor.
Similarly, if the information you found online is making you panic, search for a nurse triage telephone that you can call (many health insurance companies and healthcare centers offer one). You can explain your symptoms to the nurse who will direct you to the appropriate level of care or provide you with home care instructions. Alternatively, visit your physician or an urgent care center straightaway. Tell the doctor what you discovered online and make sure he or she resolves all of your concerns before you leave the office.
It is dangerous to self-diagnose. Dr. Google is known to misdiagnose patients. Benign symptoms are often exaggerated, which can lead to unnecessary E.R. visits. Countless illnesses cause coughing, for example. While you may be suffering from a common cold virus, Googling ‘coughing’ may actually lead you to wrongly believe you have a pulmonary embolism. On the other hand, serious conditions can be overlooked if you rely solely on Dr. Google.
The next time you wake up with a pounding headache, go ahead and use the Internet to educate yourself. But never diagnose yourself based on information you find online. The extra effort to roll out of bed and call a nurse triage telephone number or actually see your doctor in person will make all the difference.
About Ravi Raheja, M.D.
Board Certified pediatrician Ravi K. Raheja, MD saw that there was a need for accurate, reliable, cost-effective triage services in both hospital and private practice settings. Ravi Raheja, M.D. and his wife, Charu Raheja, PhD, founded TriageLogic in 2005, after extensive research and investment in the development of proprietary triage software technology. Today, TriageLogic is a leading provider of quality, affordable triage solutions, including comprehensive after-hours telephone triage services and innovative online software systems for use in both institutional and private practice settings.
What to read next: How Do Triage Nurses Evaluate If Headaches Are Serious?