Should you Google your signs and symptoms when you’re unwell?


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Consulting “Dr. Google” about your health may be helpful after all — unless you’re prone to health-related anxiety — with patients who researched their situation online reporting a better experience with their doctors, a new study has found.

Previous research has warned online symptom checkers are frequently wrong and can lead to “cyberchondria,” or worry caused by trying to self-diagnose the problem on the internet.

The new paper confirmed hunting for health information online did increase anxiety among 40 percent of patients, but the majority — 77 percent — of people who searched found it had a positive influence on their interaction with the doctor.

“They were able to ask more informed questions, better understand their doctor — including their jargon — and better communicate with their doctor,” Dr. Anthony Cocco, lead author and a physician at St. Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne in Australia, told TODAY.

“Certainly, I think that a fear of many doctors is that the patient will trust the internet over the doctor’s information… [but] our research shows that, reassuringly, the vast majority of patients would never doubt their doctor’s diagnosis or change their prescribed treatment.”

Informed patient questions:

The study involved 400 patients who came to the emergency rooms of two large hospitals in Melbourne during a four-month period in 2017. When surveyed, more than one-third said they had looked up their health problem online before coming to the ER, with most searching on a smartphone using Google and looking up symptoms and treatments.

In all, almost half of the patients regularly searched for such information, particularly younger and e-health literate patients, the study found.

David Cartu News

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