Ah yes, Dr. Google. We all know him, use him, and abuse him.
When should we rely on the Internet to "diagnosis"? How much is too much? Is Dr. Google a curse or a blessing?
Here are some pros and cons that come to mind:
- Allows us to take our own health into our own hands.
- Pictures of a symptom/disease are fairly reliable in terms of diagnosis.
- Readily available and if you have a computer and Internet, free. There are so many people in the world who can not afford to see a doctor. But if they have access to the Internet, then there is hope that it will have the answer to their health concern.
- Cultivates community. There are inspiring health stores give us hope and motivate us to tackle concern X, Y, and Z. There are also forums where strangers discuss their treatment experiences, share similar symptom stories, offer advice, or ask questions, all pertaining to a particular health complaint.
- Great for milder, benign conditions that would go away on their own anyway, such as treating bug bites, soothing sore muscles, and healing minor burns.
- Learn about condition prevention (which is often not discussed in allopathic doctor visits).
- Learn about different ways to treat a condition from different countries and cultures from around the world; learn about treatments that don't exist in your own country.
- Learn about alternative treatment options (also a con, see below).
- Get a variety of opinions, beyond the one-and-only opinion of your family doctor.
- Specific details and nuances are going to be lost if you crowd-source health info.
- The most popular diagnoses will be the only diagnoses featured online. The more posts or Google hits about tuberculosis (TB) causing a cough, the more people will come across TB when the search for the cause of a cough, and thus the more people will think that they have TB!
- Patients come to doctor already "self-diagnosed". Doctor I have this condition and thus I need this treatment. Makes patients more demanding and convinced they know what they have without the doctor's input.
- Scary. As the joke above says, a mere cold can seem deadly!
- People may value the knowledge and extensive training of healthcare workers less.
- Lots of medical websites are wrong info.
- May create hyporcondriacs.
- May delay medical treatment.
- Learn about alternative treatment options (a con because lots of "alternative" treatments have zero evidence to support their use).
- Hard to tell which health websites are good/reliable/trustworthy and which are plain bad.
- Relies heavily on anecdotal evidence.
What do you think? How often do you rely upon Dr. Google? Is he/she helpful?