That throbbing headache just won’t go away and your mind is racing around about what might be wrong. But googling symptoms may not be as badly advised as previously thought.
Although some doctors often advise not to turn to the Internet before persuading a clinic, new research suggests that using online resources to investigate symptoms may not be harmful – and may even lead to modest improvements in diagnosis.
Using “Dr Google” for health purposes is controversial. Some have expressed concern that this could lead to incorrect diagnoses, poor advice on where to seek treatment (triage) and increased anxiety (cyberchondria).
Previous research on the subject was limited to observational studies of Internet search behavior, so Harvard researchers tried to empirically measure the association of Internet search with diagnosis, triage, and anxiety by representing 5,000 people in the United States with a range of symptoms and asked them to imagine someone close feels symptoms.
Participants – mostly white, with an average age of 45 years and gender balance – were asked to make a diagnosis based on the data provided. They then searched the internet for their case symptoms (which, ranging from mild to severe, described common diseases such as viruses, heart attacks and strokes) on the internet and offered a diagnosis again. In addition to diagnosing the condition, participants had to choose the level of triage, ranging from “let the health issue be better on its own” to calling the emergency services. Participants also noted levels of anxiety.
The results showed a slight increase in the accuracy of the diagnosis, with an improvement of 49.8 to 54 percent before and after the examination. However, there was no difference in the accuracy of triage or anxiety, the authors wrote in the journal JAMA Network Open.
Approximately three-quarters of the participants were able to recognize the severity of the situation and choose appropriately when to seek care. In addition, people with previous health experience, including women, older adults, and those with poor quality of life, were “out of hand” better at making the diagnosis, said lead author Dr. David Levine of Brigham and Women of Harton Medical School .
These findings suggest that medical professionals and policymakers are unlikely to need to warn patients not to stray from the Internet when it comes to seeking health data and self-diagnosis or triage. It seems that using the internet can well help patients understand what is wrong.
We did not observe the often praised “cyberchondria”. That is, after the search, people were no longer worried and went to the emergency room. Many doctors believe that using the internet to look for someone’s symptoms is a bad idea, and that provides some evidence that is unlikely to be the case, ”he said.
“Seekers generally did not use bad sources of information such as chat forums or social networks. This similarly refutes the idea that people who search the internet get ‘bad advice’ from bad data sources. “
Marcantonio Spada, an academic psychologist at South Bank University in London who researched cyberchondria, said the study was well-designed and highlighted the benefits of searching the internet when faced with health symptoms.
“The question remains how many Internet searches are” enough “to achieve the goal of understanding what a health symptom is. The absence of a “stop signal” to search the internet can mean a risk for developing cyberchondriac behavior. Future studies should consider this key issue. “- Guardian