Whenever you’re feeling under the weather, have a little sore throat, fever, or maybe some rash you’ve never seen before. What’s the first thing you do? Hop onto Google, not see a doctor. With sites like NetDoctor, MedScape and WebMD around, anyone can find pretty legitimate information on almost every medical condition there is in the world. I believe that the advent of Dr Internet is largely a good thing, a more well-informed public is most definitely a boon for the healthcare system, but then again, there are two sides to each coin.
With the wealth of information available online, the public is no doubt more informed of various healthcare issues. They understand the risk of getting diabetes from eating too much refined carbohydrates, the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle and so on. All of which serves to act as a prevention measure to reduce health-related illnesses. Considering that prevention is better than cure, I can see how the Internet can be a force for good here.
Another interesting thing to note is the fact that with the public being able to access specific information on illnesses and checking their symptoms online, they can handle minor illnesses more confidently with much less anxiety. The ability to understand that you are inflicted with a minor illness and not a major one, can make the difference between approaching your illness with rest, a visit to the GP or the emergency room. Flooding the emergency room with patients clueless about a tiny rash, is by no means efficient. This ability to find specific technical knowledge definitely helps with medicine consumption to understand the type of pill you’re popping into your system and what OTC medications you can take. Doing so would save not only the public healthcare system some convenience but also keep your mind at ease. With such information, you can easily avoid mixing medications that work against each other.
Doctors are even hopping onto the social media bandwagon to make a name for themselves, offering online consultations, to save patients the trip to the clinic. This might make patients more willing to approach doctors, from the safety of their homes and treat their illnesses the right way as opposed to leaving it unattended due to the fear of hospitals and clinics.
However, the Internet is filled with so much information it’s hard to distinguish the signal from the noise. You’ve got fake gurus spreading fad diets and inaccurate facts that gullible people believe without a second thought. Googling your own symptoms is by no means a foolproof way to get a diagnosis. Let’s not even mention hypochondriacs, who can scroll down WebMD and diagnose themselves of every possible condition they see because they have a red lump on their skin.
To get an accurate diagnosis, patients still have to go to doctors, to go for scans and to be physically touched and assessed by physicians. You have a headache and searching up the possible diagnosis might give you a migraine or who knows, maybe even a brain tumour. So how do you tell?
The bottom line is simply this. The Internet is in no way, a substitute for the man who holds an MBBS or BDS. They’ve gone through 5 years of medical and dental school to earn their titles and doctors. You can’t replace them with a website. Yes, the internet will give you so much information to help you with your personal health issues at your own pace, but relying on technology alone is a crass move. If you have a persistent condition that Dr Internet is not helping with, go to the hospital please.
A Dentist-To-Be Dabbling in Tech Journalism: