A recent poll by Ipsos, a Canadian research company, found that more than half of Canadians surveyed tend to self-diagnose their sicknesses using the web before consulting a doctor. Some of the 55% of Canadians polled even claimed they had recently performed a search regarding a medical condition.
While it might seem risky, doctors say this ‘get info first, get help later’, approach to medical care is fine. Why? Nine times out of 10 a self-diagnoses on the web leads to patients seeing a doctor to treat the condition.
Of course, not all doctors agree on this point and there are always situations where self-diagnosing one’s self isn’t a good idea. However, most doctors agree that the majority of their patients have at least Googled their symptoms before coming in for an appointment and for the most part they are well-informed about their conditions. So, if people are going into a doctor’s office anyway after diagnosing themselves, what is the reason that people are self-diagnosing in the first place? That question has the same answer as most information-related questions in this day and age – the Internet.
Thanks to the Internet, information on every topic imaginable is accessible to anyone with a computer and a modem. And, because information is so much more easily accessible, more people are taking advantage of it.
Think about it, you wake up one day feeling ill but your symptoms aren’t familiar to you. You have already made up your mind to go see a doctor, but humans are curious by nature so you decide to do a quick web-search to find out what’s wrong with you in the meantime. Makes sense doesn’t it?
In fact, it’s something health experts have come to expect. Dr. Kendall Ho is one doctor who actually encourages medical research by his patients. In an article from the National Post, Ho stated that his patients often wildly misdiagnose themselves, but that’s ok because it shows they really want to take care of themselves and he can help them correct their mistakes.
Self-diagnosing isn’t the dangerous thing, self-treating is. What gets dangerous is when patients refrain from seeing a doctor because they are convinced they already know what they have and how to treat it. Lack of professional treatment can often lead to escalation or aggravation of what otherwise could be a simple cure.
While technology has made research easier and information more accessible to everyone, it’s important to remember that some things are best left to the experts.