Health Care by Internet?
Sep. 14, 2015
The first place many people go after they notice a strange skin lesion or soon after they begin to feel a little ill is not the local doctor's office: It is the computer desk. According to a CBS News study, a third of Americans prefer to search online to try to diagnosis a new medical condition themselves, than to see a doctor in person. The increase in the number of people who attempt to self-diagnosis themselves using the Internet is shockingly high. It is such a popular alternative to traditional medical treatment that someone even came up with a word for it: cyberchondria. Millions of Americans turn towards sites, such as WebMD and Health on the Net, to avoid visiting a physician. There are even a growing number of sites, including Diagnosis-Me and YourDiagnosis, which have turned cyberchondria into a profitable business model. For you, a budding medical assistant or other health care professional, this represents an opportunity to really show your stuff! Youâre in the unique position to calm patientsâ fears when they do make it to your practices (and they do always make it there, donât they.)
WHATâS THE CONCERN?Despite the popularity of web-based diagnosis, experts agree self-diagnosis can have potentially dangerous outcomes. Your role, then, becomes more essential since youâll be able to ease your patientâs anxiety and help them remain open to what the doctor will diagnose. Otherwise, your patients are in danger of these real medical concerns:
- Under-diagnosing severe illnesses. Combinations of common symptoms may be a sign of the early onset of life threatening illnesses. A symptom like a fever or a sore throat is simple enough for most people to ignore, or to treat with over-the-counter medication. But, sometimes when these common symptoms occur along with other everyday pains, medical experts are able to recognize the onset of a potential dangers of a serious illness which needs a doctor's attention immediately. For example, Lymphoma and head trauma are often present with a fever, yet self-diagnosing patients may miss the related signs and symptoms, and may cause them to end up in an ambulance or worse.
- Over-diagnosing minor ailments is one of the most common outcomes of cyberchondria. Patients who choose to use the Internet to investigate their symptoms have a tendency to jump straight to the worse possible disease or illness. These are the patients who assume their unexplained weight loss must be due to cancer, or every minor pain in their chests is a heart attack. This leads many of these patients to undergo unnecessary tests and doctor visits to verify they do not have the illness they thought they did.
- The wrong treatment. Once a person believes she knows what is wrong with her, the treatment they choose may be ineffectual or downright dangerous. When people self-diagnosis, they are more likely to seek medication either over-the-counter, or from friends or relatives who received treatment from a doctor for a similar problem. Of course this is extremely dangerous, and can lead to all sorts of medical problems down the road.