In the old days, when someone felt sick or got hurt, the first person they turned to for help was either a doctor or a midwife. But as days gone by and Internet swept the world, now the first thing a person does when she/he feels sick or is doubtful about his/her health, they quickly open their smartphones and turn to Dr. Google for their aid and find out what exactly is wrong with their health. According to a new study, the number of individuals turning to the Internet to look for a variety of topics related to health continues to grow. But most Web health seekers tend to be rich, well-educated and female according to various surveys. Over the years there has been a tremendous increase in Google searches for Health and medical related topics.
A new study was released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found out that 80% Internet users (93 million American users) have searched for a health-related topic online. That’s up from 62 percent of Internet users who said they went online to research health topics in 2001. Pew survey asked participants whether they had used the Internet to search online for at least one of 16 major health issues, ranging from mental health, immunization, and knowledge on sexual health. Most often people went online to search for information about a particular disease or medical problem (63%) or medical treatment or procedure (47%). We also wanted to get information in food, nutrition and vitamins (44%) and knowledge on exercise or health (36%). Certain common health issues include: prescription or over-the-counter medicines (34%); alternative treatments (28%); medical insurance (25%); depression, anxiety or stress (21%); and a specific physician or hospital (21%). The Pew poll found that women are much more likely to obtain medical information on the net online than men (85 percent versus 75 percent) and that youthful consumers are more likely than senior citizens to explore health topics online.
Google searches for Health and medical amounts to 70,000 each minute, according to the report. Health-related Google searches also appear to increase among emergency room patients weeks before visiting the hospital, according to a Penn Medicine study. More than half of patients searched for clinical information related to the medical issue they ended up going to the hospital for, including symptoms or a potential illness
But is it really safe to find solutions for medical problems on google? Does it really help a sick person and?
Here are some things people should know before googling symptoms or treatments:
- Search engines do their best to match results that match the search terms used when you google your symptoms. The outcome of your search may be a reputable medical site providing valuable information. But it can also bring up an article on Wikipedia, an online forum, or a personal blog from someone. Such reports may be completely inaccurate, and a medical professional may not report them.
- Wikipedia is the sixth most popular medical information website — and this is a terrifying reality. . Anyone can write and edit Wikipedia articles with wild abandon if they so choose.
- Googling Symptoms Causes Health Anxiety. Google just about any symptom and there’s bound to be results that suggest surgery or connect the symptom with a form of cancer. These extreme conclusions can cause serious anxiety, especially for people who are already afraid of health problems. This anxiety happens so frequently today, there’s a name for it—cyberchondria.
- Googling Symptoms Costs Patients More Money. Googling symptoms can turn patients into a new type of hypochondriac. Hypochondriacs aren’t faking their anxiety and they aren’t seeking attention. They are genuinely fearful or distressed about their medical condition—even if their fears are irrational. This often leads to frequent and sometimes unnecessary trips to the ER, urgent care or physician’s office, and ends up costing patients and the healthcare industry billions of dollars each year in unnecessary medical tests and treatments.
Talk to your doctor if you have health concerns — do not rely on the Internet. It may cause unnecessary anxiety if you find exaggerated information about your condition. You may fail to give it the attention it needs if you find information that downplays your condition, which could result in a more serious situation.