When people have symptoms that might be an illness, they often go online for information before contacting their physicians. Not all medical advice provided online is equal and often the accuracy of online medical advice is not checked by readers.
A study by Bupa Health Pulse was performed by questioning people from 12 different countries. The study was designed to see how people used the internet for health purposes. A summary of results from this survey included the following information:
-Nearly half of the people who use the internet looking for health information do so in order to make a self-diagnosis of their symptoms.
-Almost 70% of those looking for online medical advice do so to look for more information about medications.
-More than 30% of online readers search for health issues related to alternative therapies.
-About 30% search for dieting tips and information.
-Almost 30% of online searches for health issues were for information on mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
It was also discovered that about ¾ of readers are not checking the accuracy of online medical advice.
It’s one thing to use the internet to seek information and even treatment options. But considering the number of online readers looking to self-diagnose an illness or ways to treat their own illnesses is disturbing.
An accurate diagnosis of any illness should be performed by a quality physician. With the rising costs of healthcare and lack of medical insurance coverage worldwide, it’s easy to see why people would look to alternative information such as the internet to try to solve health issues before the need to seek the advice of a physician.
For those searching for medical advice online, you should always check the accuracy of any medical advice you read online. The best thing to do is to use the internet for information to take with you when you see a physician to address your health issues. Many illnesses share the same symptoms and a doctor is best qualified to diagnose exactly which condition you may have and the treatment options that will be best in your individual case.
It is often hard to find the best information in an online search. Sometimes paid advertisers gain some of the top slots in internet searches, as well as information with sensationalized headlines in order to attract readers. If you feel you have found accurate information, you should see if this information is the same given by another reputable source as well.
For example, a while back there were headlines claiming that temper tantrums were to be labeled as a psychiatric disorder. Even upon reading these “news” stories, it seemed that the psychiatric world wanted to start diagnosing and medicating toddlers for undergoing a natural part of the growth process. Upon further research from additional sources, it could be found that it was not temper tantrums in toddlers that would be labeled a psychiatric disorder, but rather in older children who had other behavior issues as well. This new diagnosis was instituted to try to reduce the number of kids labeled with bipolar disorder rather than to make thousands of new diagnoses.
That is just one example. There are many instances where even news stories from reputable sources may not contain all of the information prior to publishing online medical advice. If you are an online reader, always check the accuracy of online medical advice. Better yet, just use any online medical advice for informational purposes for discussion points with a physician.
Bupa; Only 1 in 4 people check the reliability of online health advice; Bupa Health Pulse 2010: Health & Wellbeing
Jolynne M Hudnell; Temper Tantrums: A Psychiatric Disorder?; Yahoo! Contributor Network