Healthcare providers know you do it. It’s pretty much the norm now. You Google your medical issues. Providers understand this but you should know the limitations of using the world’s most powerful search engine for medical use. Here are 5 reasons why Google may not be helpful for medical care.
1. Accuracy: Google searches are not that accurate when you start with multiple symptoms. Some symptoms are more important than others and diagnoses depend on more than just symptoms (like age, factors, family history, medication use, etc). Google wasn’t designed to diagnose medical issues but some programs are created for this purpose like in this study. Though, even the best program in the study was only right 70% and allowed three chances for the correct diagnosis.
2. Specifics: Google is going to give you multiple possibilities. Currently, Google usually gives you five possibilities for a symptom. All things being equal, that’s only a 20% chance of picking the right one (assuming that the right diagnosis is an option).
3. Scary: Don’t scare yourself. If it’s anxiety that leads you to frantically search for more information to help your undiagnosed problem, your anxiety can get worse. Unless you have an Emergency Room symptom, you have time to slow down, prepare and seek help. Yes, it may be difficult to ignore until you see a medical professional, but being very anxious about the issue won’t help you, your friends and family, and even your medical team.
4. Physical Exam: Sometimes you just need a good, old-fashioned physical exam. While most issues can be diagnosed with the patients history of symptoms, some issues really need a physical exam. Even colds or flu are diagnosed better in-person to make sure your lungs don’t sound bad or that your lymph nodes don’t point to mono. If it’s abdominal problems or muscle/joint injuries, you’ll definitely need a good exam. If the issue can be potentially dangerous, getting accurate vital signs is also definitely important. One day, Google will be able to do the physical exam with tiny robots that get teleported to your location, but that’s at least six months away (see reason 3).
5. Wrong Direction: Google can send you down the wrong path. While it’s only natural to want answers instantly (thanks Internet), your rush may set you up for the wrong diagnosis. Some get so convinced that it is one specific diagnosis and now the medical provider has to diagnose, treat and discuss your issue; but, also, needs to convince you that it is another problem. This can be time-consuming at best and frustrating at worst for medical providers. If you use Dr. Google, be open-minded. Going into a visit with your mind focused on only one thing, sets up a bad situation.
1. Information Galore: While most of this post describes why Google might not be too useful in finding a diagnosis, Google can help when you do have a diagnosis. You can learn all you want about your condition, find support groups, see the common treatments, learn about recent news about the issue. It can be reassuring to see that you are not the only one experiencing the symptoms and learn about their experiences.
Summary: Google is a great tool, but not a doctor (yet).
– iHealth Clinic