Archive for February, 2013

Electronic Media and the Dangers of Internet Medical Diagnosis

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

By Dr. Vijay Krishna and Dr. Atul Kalanuria

There is little doubt that internet is a great communication tool. It virtually puts all your information needs at your fingertips from the comfort of your cushy home. There is little doubt that sitting for prolonged periods of time is detrimental to your health. But people with an illness can double down on the negative health effects by engaging in self-diagnosis via the internet.

Here’s how:

  1. Over-Diagnosis: Medicine is a vast area; it takes experts with decades of schooling and experience to master the art of diagnosis. Based on the information and opinion of the professional advice and patient experiences, it is very challenging to distill information and relate it to oneself. While searching for objective information is good – which gives you a little preparation before you see your health care provider – it may not present you with the whole picture.
  2. Under-Diagnosis: There is a general human tendency – especially when it comes to health – for people to be biased toward favorable, positive information. While it’s true that more information reduces uncertainty, it could also be a cause for a self-serving bias in some instances. Therefore, one must be aware that the internet may not present a holistic picture and could lead to a possible under diagnosis, thereby missing a major health condition.
  3. Extreme Cases: In general, we’re in a constant quest to reduce uncertainty in life. A way to reduce uncertainty is by seeking more information – which there is plenty of online in the form of websites, blogs, and other social media. However, beware that the internet is unrestricted and allows anyone to post anything, anytime. Therefore, everybody could profess to be an expert – e.g.: See Stevey Cooksey’s case (http://tinyurl.com/bwf4ou2). While there are no legitimate way to verify individual opinions, beware that some people are motivated to post when they are at either one extreme of finding success or the other end of
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    misery. These polar opinions could put one in a bind, as a lay person would not be able to calibrate or capture advice that relates to his/her condition.

So, does this mean that you should not go online to seek medical information? No, that’s not what we’re saying. There are merits to understanding medical conditions from credible sources such as Mayo clinic, WebMD, etc. which will prep you with some useful information before you see your healthcare provider. The most important thing to remember is acting on internet-acquired information without consulting a medical practitioner could only create stress and aggravate your present medical condition.

The information on the internet can be very handy to frame the right questions for your doctor. Remember, each clinical scenario is different and your physician should be the one to explain your problem and not some random blogs. In fact, most physicians will appreciate informed questions from patients since this allows development of a mutual treatment plan.

Be wary of the internet medical diagnosis.