No doubt the internet is full of information and it has made the world a smaller place, a global village and a medical platform. It has also helped people to become more anonymous in their interactions with others. Internet is also a vast library of useful and helpful information and people around the world surf the internet about their problems and its remedies.
At times internet gives us valuable information but sometimes you can fall into a trap of inadequate information, and many of you probably might have already gone through it. Ask yourself, are you among those who surf for every symptom you have? Nowadays we have been coming across a new trend among people that they start googling their symptoms on the internet and its treatment without checking its authenticity. Even patients who visit doctors check about their medications and side effects in the internet and abruptly stop their medicine.
It seems that a level of trust between doctor and patient is getting impacted by exposure to online medical information. During our clinical practice nowadays we come across the patients who were regularly following someclinicians but stopped treatment after surfing internet. This has resulted not only in relapsing/ reemergence of disorders but complicating the issues further which makes it difficult for treating doctor to tackle. People are not aware of the fact that different diseases have different signs and symptoms in different people. In our experience, particularly during COVID era, we have seen that people suffering from mild flu were diagnosed as severe pneumonia on the internet thus complicating the problem of pandemic through infodemics. This dangerous trend of treating Google as your doctor is on the rise and can be fatal for people using it. Another problem with this is self-medication which sometimes can worsen the scenario.
Here are some points which show why googling your symptoms without knowledge are dangerous:
• Online surfing shows that every symptom is serious and will kill you. But after consulting a clinician you come to know that the problem is not so serious and treatable.
• Online symptom checkers are seldom reliable.
• By getting wrong information you can land into severe depression.
• It is very easy to fell pray into this and misdiagnose yourself.
• Authenticity of the information is always questionable.
• Sometimes you are really suffering from serious illness and goggling only delay your treatment.
• Sometimes patient needs an examination and this is not possible on internet.
• Think about this, that you are dealing with human life.
• There are some sites out there offering dangerous advice to vulnerable people.
• Doctors spend years in college for a reason and one becomes a clinician by reading text books and learning under mentors in clinical settings over the period of years.
• Anyone can publish content online.
Why consulting doctor is better than googling?
When it comes to our health related issues we should take help of qualified doctors who will treat us according to our symptoms.
? Doctors spend years mastering their profession; sometimes spend 10 or more years studying medicine, depending on the level of their degrees.
? Doctors have thorough understanding of human body, diseases and its treatment, so they can treat you better.
? Doctors can differentiate one symptom from different diseases and can reach the diagnosis well on time.
? Doctors treat their patients from their past experiences of patients, from other clinicians etc.
? Doctors can schedule pertinent investigations in a step-wise manner to rule out any other diseases.
? Doctors will be able to help make a practical decision customized to the situation, after analyzing innumerable variables when faced with a dilemma involving serious illness.
? No technology or machines can replace the professional human touch which has empathy, knowledge and kindness.
? Every patient has to be studied holistically by taking detailed history, well performed examination and conducting battery of tests (where ever and whenever required) which is not the case with internet or Google search.
Medical decision-making is not just writing a prescription but it is scientific thinking and varying mix of empathy, kindness, ethics, morality, culture, spirituality, reassurance and effective communication. It is a known fact that doctors arrive at the correct diagnosis 72% of the time, as opposed to 34% for the apps. And 84% of the time, doctors provided the correct diagnosis in their top three choices, compared with only 51% for the symptom checkers.
Patients don’t read medical textbooks but just use online searches and try to become doctors and then it becomes very difficult for the doctors to convince them about their treatment or diagnosis. Diagnosing yourself online is a slippery slope and it’s imperative to consult and trust your doctor and not let your health suffer from half-baked knowledge online.
In short, nothing can replace a meticuloushistory taking and well performed physical examination, urgent care or emergency department, with access to diagnostic instruments. One cannot become a doctor or any other professional through internet search and in fact the incomplete knowledge may make you a “neem hakeem” which actually may be counterproductive for managing your day to day health related issues.