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Paging Dr. Google

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Thursday February 10, 2011 )

The great thing about the Internet is all the information available to us – it can also be the worst thing about the Internet.

I’m not the young man I was and the odd ache and pain is starting to appear from time to time – and then there’s the effects of gravity which I won’t go into. All pretty normal stuff.

I tend to resist looking to Google for diagnosis of any symptoms as the last time I did, I was convinced by the end of my search I had a brain tumor and would likely spontaneously combust.

It’s a similar situation when I watch one of my favorite shows, House. At the end of each episode, I’m torn between the mirth and a sneaking suspicion that I may have lupus or Kuru, even though the latter can only contracted through eating the brains of a very select few from a remote location in New Guinea.

The Internet has empowered us to a degree when it comes to our health, but the snake oil salesmen and the misinformed are very difficult to avoid. One one of the sites I run, I had someone leave a comment recommending the ingestion of hydrogen peroxide as a cure all. Hydrogen peroxide is not something to mess with.

I’m sure most doctors would shudder as soon as one of their patients says “I was searching the Internet..”.

It’s quite a serious situation. According to a recent survey, 68% of respondents have used the internet to search for information about a medicine and 46% to make a self-diagnosis. The problem is, as a result some people are ignoring serious symptoms or foregoing prescribed medication and others .. well, they are of the Kuru variety – self diagnosing an illness they don’t actually have and seeking treatments they don’t need.

Dr Christine Bennett, Chief Medical Officer of Bupa Australia, said the results underline the importance of people referencing information from credible online resources.

I think the survey results and accompanying comments also act as a tap on the shoulder for folks running health oriented web sites to consider very carefully the information they publish and the comments they allow through.


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