There’s plenty of information available, if you know how to look for it.
Guest post provided by Wayne Page – See below for more information on this author.
Ever since the first ailment, people have been trying to diagnose their own medical conditions.
At times, this has been out of necessity, because a doctor was unavailable. For most people today, self-diagnosis is not as much a necessity, as it is a means of saving money and convenience.
When people try to diagnose their own signs and symptoms now, they often turn to the internet for help.
As with most aspects of the internet, there are advantages and disadvantages to it. Here are some tips to help people use medical resources on the web wisely, when they are seeking advice.
A Precautionary Warning
Before the internet can be reliably used to help people with medical conditions, people must understand themselves.
Specifically, hypochondriacs should think twice before going to the web for help.
According to Forbes, a Microsoft study found what they called “query escalation” in 5.3 percent of searches for medical symptoms.
These cases varied, but query escalation is the act of initiating a search with a common medical symptom, such as “headache.”
Then, some users quickly began searching more serious conditions, like “headache tumor.”
Of course, caffeine headaches are much more common than brain tumors. However, the internet leads people to think of the more serious condition.
Realize the Limitations
The web is not a replacement for your primary-care physician, specialized doctor, nurse or long-term care CNA.
These are all medical professionals that are trained, to various degrees, to provide professional medical services.
They are knowledgeable in their fields and held to stringent standards, whether they are a basic nurse aide or a surgeon. The internet lacks this level of sophistication or standard.
Furthermore, medical providers, such as CNAs, nurses and doctors, are able to treat you as a person.
The internet cannot develop that interpersonal connection. To it, you are just a series of “1s” and “0s.”
The web can only give you facts; it cannot provide you with an accurate, personalized diagnosis.
This is reflected in statements like, “[site] does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment,” which can be found on WebMD and other similar sites.
Almost anyone today can create a professional-looking website, and no medical knowledge is required.
Therefore, people need to look beyond a site’s design, to its creators and experts.
Here are some points to consider:
- Government sites and those of highly respected educational institutions are generally more reliable than generic sites.
- Well-established nonprofit sites also often contain reliable information.
- These above sites usually have URLs that end in .gov, .edu or .org. Extensions like .info and .biz should be avoided.
- Some good sources, according to Dr. Harlan Weinberg via Forbes, include the National Library of Medicine, Mediline Plus, the National Immunization Program, the CDC and USDA’s MyPyramid.
Let Medical Professionals do Their Job
These websites can be very useful, but understanding their place in one’s treatment is vital.
They contain a wealth of health-related information, which can help people live more responsible lives.
However, they are not people. Patients should still let medical professionals, from CNAs to medical doctors, diagnose and treat their conditions.